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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

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. 

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House Extends Benefits for the Unemployed; New Coalition Calls for Stronger Action

December 17, 2009 - Posted by Ron Bigler

The House on Wednesday passed another six-month extension of unemployment benefits and extended the COBRA health care subsidy that was set to expire at the end of December.

The COBRA benefit — created under the stimulus bill earlier this year — pays for 65 percent of a laid-off worker's cost of continuing coverage under an employer's health insurance plan. For many families, it is the only way they can continue to pay for coverage. According to Families USA, the average cost for family coverage under an employer COBRA plan was $1,111. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

The unemployment and COBRA insurance extensions are critical lifelines for millions of Americans trying to survive the worst recession since the Great Depression. But they are only stop-gap measures.

A broad coalition of 60 organizations, including The Leadership Conference, is calling on Congress to pass legislation now that will put millions of Americans back on the job.

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President Obama Sharpens Focus on Jobs, Relief for the Unemployed

December 9, 2009 - Posted by Ron Bigler

Calling the current jobs crisis affecting millions of Americans a "continuing human tragedy," President Obama this week outlined a series of steps intended to boost job growth and continue relief for the unemployed.

The plan includes expanding tax breaks and incentives to small businesses, increasing spending on infrastructure, and a new program of tax rebates for retrofitting homes for energy efficiency. The president also called for the extension of emergency benefits for the unemployed and support for local governments facing budget shortfalls and layoffs.

"We avoided the depression many feared," Obama said in a speech at the Brookings Institution. But, he stressed, "Our work is far from done." 

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Civil Rights Groups Seek Urgent Response to U.S. Jobs Crisis

November 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Wade Henderson

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, speaking on the jobs crisis at the Economic Policy Institute. November 2009.

Civil rights and progressive organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the AFL-CIO, and the Center for Community Change, have joined the Economic Policy Institute in calling attention to the urgent need to address the current jobs crisis in light of new unemployment data released for October 2009

The national jobs crisis has become a major barrier to progress in our country. Without job security, families will continue to lose their homes and will stop saving for their own retirement or their children's education.  Job security is also essential because the decisions and sacrifices made by the families hit the hardest today will have lasting repercussions for years to come.  For example, young adults who must work to support their families instead of attending school will find themselves disadvantaged when competing for work in the future.

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Economy Track Shows How the Recession Hits Communities Differently

November 3, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

The economic hardships caused by current recession reach far and wide, but some communities are experiencing the negative effects of the recession more acutely than national averages reveal, according to data available through a new online tool from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank.

EPI's new Economy Track website allows you to see how the recession affects different industries and states, and also people of different races, gender, and education level. 

For instance, though the overall U.S. unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, it is 15.4 percent for African Americans and 12.7 percent for Hispanics. And while the 9.6 percent unemployment for workers in service industries is near the national average, the situation for blue-collar workers – 15.3 percent unemployment – is even more dire.

You can find a broad range of comparative statistics on Economy Track –and all of the data is downloadable and updated on a regular basis.

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Half in Ten: Census Poverty Data Shows Urgent Need for Anti-Poverty Policies

October 13, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Women, children and minorities are bearing a disproportionate share of the rise in poverty and unemployment in America, according to a new analysis of census data by U.S. congressional district.

The Half in Ten Campaign analyzed the data in all 435 congressional districts and found that:

  • the child poverty rate is about 30 percent in 36 districts across 16 states;
  • the poverty rate for women is above the national average in more than half of the districts;
  • one in four African Americans live below the poverty level in nearly 200 districts; and
  • the poverty rate among Latinos is more than 25 percent in 145 districts.

In light of the findings, Half in Ten is urging Congress to extend unemployment insurance in all states to prevent those looking for a job from slipping into poverty.

"These data underscore the importance of setting national poverty-reduction goals such as cutting poverty in half in 10 years. While the economy was growing between 2001 and 2007, we saw the unprecedented trend of more Americans falling into poverty. Without a focused government effort and absent additional assistance, poverty rates will continue to rise as will disparities by race and gender," Melissa Boteach, manager of the Half in Ten Campaign. "As we rebuild our economy, we need to be intentional about doing so in a way that promotes shared prosperity and sets benchmarks to achieve significant poverty-reduction progress."

Find 2008 poverty data for your congressional district.

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House Votes to Extend Unemployment Benefits

September 23, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

The House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that, if enacted, will extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks.

The extension will only apply to states that have unemployment rates higher than 8.5 percent – about 27 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  More than 300,000 unemployed workers whose benefits will run out at the end of the month and more than a million others who will lose benefits by the end of the year will be eligible for the extension.

Congress last approved a 33-week extension in February as part of the economic recovery package. 

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New Census Data Shows Rise of Those in Poverty and without Insurance

September 11, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

According to U.S. Census Bureau data released yesterday, the number of Americans living in poverty and without health insurance increased in 2008.

The number of uninsured rose from 45.7 million to 46.3 million and the official poverty rate rose from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent last year – the highest rate since 1997. Nearly 40 million Americans lived below the official poverty threshold in 2008.

In addition, poverty and uninsured rates increased more drastically in many minority communities than they did among non-Hispanic whites.

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Rebuilding Efforts Dampen Effects of Recession in New Orleans

August 21, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The continuing effort to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has partially sheltered the city from the national economic crisis.

Although unemployment rose from 5 percent to 7.3 percent this year, it remains below the national rate of 9.5 percent. According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, in the first quarter of 2009, New Orleans had the sixth lowest unemployment rate among the 100 largest cities.

The city's industrial composition has allowed it to escape the massive layoffs that have plagued other cities. Manufacturing and construction, the industries hardest hit by the national recession, make up a small portion of the New Orleans economy. Instead, New Orleans' largest sectors (trade and transportation, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services) either added jobs or remained the same. 

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New Orleans Infrastructure Still in Disrepair; Funds Still Needed

August 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, New Orleans still lacks adequate basic infrastructure. Striking the city in late August 2005, Katrina left more than three quarters of New Orleans underwater, causing severe damage to public services, roads, and essential utilities.

Since then, a lack of federal funding has hampered recovery and reconstruction efforts. Without basic services the city remains difficult for residents and evacuees who may want to return. Of the 23 hospitals that serviced New Orleans before Katrina, only 12 have reopened. Public transportation is unable to ferry more than about 43 percent of pre-Katrina passenger numbers, while only 50 percent of the city's child care centers are open. Repairs to roads are also still ongoing.

According to a new report by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a local research group, only 58 percent of the $7.8 billion pledged since 2005 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for infrastructure repair has been paid to local authorities. The city authorities have repeatedly called for the federal government to honor its commitments and provide the crucial financial support necessary for the city to restore its infrastructure and rebuild its communities.

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Welfare Reauthorization Should Meet Needs of Low-Income Families

August 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Civil rights groups say that when Congress reauthorizes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the nation's primary welfare program, it must ensure that all eligible families receive welfare assistance and help more people find jobs or return to the workforce.

TANF provides money to states to administer welfare to low-income families. The program was intended to temporarily protect vulnerable families and promote long-term work, by providing education, job preparation, and training services.  To be eligible to receive TANF funds, parents must work, attend job trainings, or participate in community service for at least 30 hours a week.

However, these strict requirements often prevent the most vulnerable families with severe employment barriers from receiving financial assistance or finding jobs. Since 1996, the percentage of eligible families receiving assistance has decreased by half (down from 86 percent to 42 percent in 2004).  The number of low-income single mothers who neither work nor receive welfare has increased from around 14 percent in 1987 to 34 percent in 2007.

In addition, the recession and budget crises have forced some states reduce the number of families that receive welfare assistance.

All of these factors underscore the need for Congress to give states more flexibility to develop programs that better meet the diverse needs of low-income families, advocates say. 

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