Poverty & Welfare
There has long been a close association between the struggle for civil rights and the fight against poverty in the United States. The drive to dismantle segregation and defeat discrimination has been centered on the need to open the gates of economic opportunity, mostly closed to minorities, women, and other by both governmental and private action.
July 20, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
This Friday, the federal minimum wage will increase from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour. The change is the last of three increases over the past two years as mandated by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.
The increase comes at a time a time when many Americans need it the most. More than 2.8 million workers will receive a pay increase due to the new minimum wage.
But even with the increase, many of these workers who struggle to support families with their incomes will still fall below the poverty line. An individual earning $7.25 an hour in a 2,000-hour work year would earn an annual income of $14,500, a number still below the 2009 federal poverty level of $18,310 for a family of three.
The raise in the minimum wage is expected to increase consumer spending, which would be an important stimulus to the economy. According to Kai Filion, policy analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, the upcoming increase will generate $5.5 billion in consumer spending over the next 12 months.
July 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
July 15, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
The number of homeless families who spend some time in a shelter increased by 9 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) annual report on homelessness. The report, released last week, also showed significant increases in homelessness in suburban and rural areas.
The overall number of homeless people that spend some time in a shelter has changed very little since 2007, but the report identified important differences among homeless families and individuals. Families living in shelters are most likely to be headed by a single woman under the age of 30, whereas individuals in shelters are most likely to be disabled men between the ages of 31 and 50. Whites are also more likely to experience homelessness individually, whereas minorities are more likely to enter homeless shelters accompanied by family members.
The report also found that 42 percent of homeless people at any given point in time are "unsheltered on the street or in other places not meant for human habitation."
The report reflects some of the toll that the housing crisis and the economic recession have taken on American families. However, because the report doesn't include data after September 2008 when the economic downturn worsened, the recession's impact on homelessness may be even greater than the report suggests. HUD began monitoring homelessness on a quarterly basis this year in order to further explore the effects of the financial crisis.
June 29, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
The focus on accounting for results in the economic recovery package has intensified the call by anti-poverty advocates to modernize how the nation measures poverty.
The current measure, which was created in the 1960s and based on data from the 1950s, sets the poverty threshold at $21,000 for four, a figure that advocates say does not accurately reflect the economic realities faced by millions of Americans.
On June 17, Rep. Jim McDermott, D. Wash., reintroduced legislation designed to modernize the calculation of poverty. The Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009 proposes a measure of poverty that would be based on current consumption patterns for food, clothing, shelter and other basic needs. It also takes into account income assistance from public programs and geographic differences in the cost of living. A parallel bill will be introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd, D. Conn., later this year.
June 25, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) is calling for the Senate to lift restrictions that make it harder for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide legal services to low-income people.
The LSC is a non-profit corporation created by Congress in 1974 to ensure equal access to justice for millions of Americans who need but cannot pay for a lawyer. The LSC is primarily funded by Congress and gives grants to free legal aid organizations around the country that help low-income Americans with legal matters.
In a letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, LCCR said: "In these times of economic distress, when more and more people require help in battling foreclosure and eviction, securing unemployment and benefits, and dealing with medical and insurance matters, the Senate must assist those most vulnerable by funding the LSC sufficiently and by lifting no-cost restrictions."
Since the 1990s, the LSC has suffered budget cuts and a number of restrictions – including those preventing legal aid lawyers from collecting attorneys' fees and LSC clients from joining class action lawsuits – which have forced it to turn away nearly a million cases a year. The House passed a budget recently that included significant increases in funding and removed the restriction on the collection of attorneys' fees, but left in place many of the other restrictions. The Senate is expected to consider the funding bill for the LSC this week.
June 12, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Urban poverty and climate change significantly affect low-income and minority communities. A new Hip Hop Caucus campaign, Green The Block, aims to educate and mobilize urban and low-income youth to push public policies that address poverty and climate change at the same time.
In this video segment from CNN, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, shares his hope that creating a green economy with more jobs will enable unemployed people in low-income communities to work.
May 27, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
You may think that not owning a home will protect you from foreclosure - but an estimated 40 percent of households facing eviction due to foreclosure are renters, not homeowners. Many renters have been evicted from their homes with little or no notice - sometimes with no idea that a foreclosure was pending - after their landlords were unable to pay their mortgages.
But renters now have some protection against eviction under the foreclosure prevention bill signed by President Obama last week. The new law, which took effect immediately, requires the new owners of a property to allow tenants to remain in the home, as long as the tenants pay their rent on time. Renters will be able to stay until the end of their lease, or will get at least 90 days notice if they do not have a lease or if the new owner intends to reside in the home.
May 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Nationally, nearly 500,000 children are currently in foster care. Children from families in crisis are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and the foster care system gives many of these children a safe place to stay, whether it be for a few days or many years.
National Foster Care Month recognizes all the people who serve as foster parents, relative caregivers, mentors, advocates, social workers, and volunteers.
However, the foster care system faces a lot of challenges, such as a lack of available foster parents, and a shortage of funding for child protection agencies that don't have the resources and staff they need to make sure that all foster homes are safe homes.
Another challenge is helping the more than 25,000 young people who age out of the foster care system each year - at anywhere between age 18 and age 21, depending on the state. The first years of adulthood are a challenge to all young people, but especially for those without family support. States provide some assistance to youth who are making the transition from foster care to living on their own, but many of these young people still face an increased risk of homelessness, poverty, health problems, and unemployment.
Visit the National Foster Care Month website to find out ways you can help children and teens in foster care by volunteering, by advocating for laws and policies that help foster children, or by becoming a mentor, respite care provider, or foster parent.
May 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
A payday loan store in Henrico County, VA. Photo credit: Andrew Bain.
Today's Washington Post article, Poor? Pay Up, details how low-income people often end up paying more for basic goods and services - both in money and time - than middle-class people pay for the same items.
For example, in Washington, D.C., where LCCR/EF's office is located, some low-income neighborhoods don't have a supermarket. If you don't have a car, you can either go to a corner store, where you would pay $3.79 for a loaf of wheat bread, or you could take the bus to a supermarket in another part of the city, where you would get that loaf of bread for only $1.19 - but you've wasted hours waiting for and taking the bus to get to the store.
The article also details the problems caused by payday lenders, to whom low-income people often turn if they need money quickly for unplanned expenses such as car repairs, prescriptions, or higher-than-usual utility bills. It's fairly easy to get a short-term loan, but you may end up paying fees and interest that add up to an annual percentage rate of more than 400 percent. In contrast, the average rate for credit cards in the United States is less than 15 percent. Payday lending is currently legal in 37 states.
May 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich., speaking on a panel with representatives from the Inter-Alliance Dialogue at an ad-hoc hearing sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus on May 12, 2009.
Organizations that advocate for working-class Americans, such as the Institute for Policy Studies and Jobs with Justice, recently formed a coalition called the Inter-Alliance Dialogue to address the needs of low-income workers, minorities, domestic workers, day laborers, and other groups most affected by the recession.
In recent months, employers have been eliminating jobs at a rate of about half a million per month, causing many people to lose their homes and healthcare, especially low-income workers and minorities.
The groups that make up the Inter-Alliance Dialogue are urging Congress to address the needs of low-wage workers, by:
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