Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where Did They Go?

The Times reports on the Last Homeless Man in Times Square:
As long as there have been homeless people sleeping in Times Square, there have been social workers and city officials trying to persuade them to leave.

In the past, the homeless were offered a free ride to one of the city’s warehouselike shelters. These days, workers for nonprofit groups help people move into apartments, keeping track as thenumber of the chronically homeless in Times Square goes down. According to their records, by 2005, there were only 55.

Last summer, it was down to 7.

Now there is one.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"In addition to almost 38,000 people living in shelters"

From the NYT:
The Bloomberg administration said Friday that the number of people living on New York’s streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the city’s most intractable problems.

Appearing both startled and dismayed by the sharp increase, a year after a significant drop, administration officials attributed it to the recession, noting that city shelters for families and single adults had been inundated.

Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said in a subdued news conference that the city began feeling the increase in its vast shelter system more than two years ago. “And now we’re seeing the devastating effect of this unprecedented poor economy on our streets as well,” Mr. Hess said.

The city’s annual tally indicated an additional 783 homeless people on the streets and in the subway system, for a total of 3,111, up from 2,328 last year. That is in addition to almost 38,000 people living in shelters, which is near the city’s high
. . . . . . . . . .
Last year, city officials said that the count revealed a 30 percent drop in the street homeless population since 2008, an announcement that was made at an elaborate news conference attended by volunteers, formerly homeless people and Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services, who spoke briefly.

This year’s event was quiet and spare by comparison. Ms. Gibbs’s commissioner, Mr. Hess, made the announcement in a conference room, seated at a long table.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Milgram Experiments Updated

We'll inflict pain if you put us on TV.

Prison[er] Count 2010

From Pew Center on the States:

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the number of state prisoners in the United States has declined, according to Prison Count 2010," a new survey by the Pew Center on the States. As of January 2010, there were 1,403,091 persons under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities, 5,739 fewer than on December 31, 2008.

This marks the first year-to-year drop in the nation’s state prison population since 1972. While the study showed an overall decline, it revealed great variation among jurisdictions. The prison population declined in 27 states, while increasing in 23 states and in the federal system.

In the past few years, several states have enacted reforms designed to get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars. These strategies included:

  • • Diverting low-level offenders and probation and parole violators from prison
    • Strengthening community supervision and re-entry programs
    • Accelerating the release of low-risk inmates who complete risk reduction programs

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hunger and Obesity in the Bronx

“If you look at rates of obesity, diabetes, poor access to grocery stores, poverty rates, unemployment and hunger measures, the Bronx lights up on all of those,” said Triada Stampas of the Food Bank for New York City. “They’re all very much interconnected.”

Monday, March 08, 2010

"If you could just walk in our shoes for two days. . . ."

Low-income mothers and welfare recipients discuss the upcoming reauthorization of welfare reform; audio via the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Ron Haskins, at Brookings, surveys the landscape to gauge the likely areas of debate.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Brief Primer on the Poor Federal Poverty Measure

UPDATE: The Census Bureau lays out the plan for the new, alternative-but-only-supplemental poverty measure (SPM).

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Homeland Insecurity"

"I've discovered that if I don't die within the next two years, I won't be able to afford to live." HERE

Saturday, February 27, 2010

45 Little Hoovers

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports on state-level budget cuts:

Cuts Affect Wide Range of Services

States began cutting their budgets last spring, as the recession brought sharply weakened revenues. The cuts have intensified as the economy has worsened. Even as the need for state-funded services rose, states cut funding for services by 4 percent for fiscal year 2009 and an additional 4.8 percent for 2010, according to preliminary estimates by the National Association of State Budget Officers. These cuts are affecting important services. At least 45 states plus the District of Columbia have reduced services since the recession began. Service cuts with particular ramifications for vulnerable populations have occurred in the following areas:

  • Public health programs: At least 29 states have implemented cuts that will restrict low-income children’s or families’ eligibility for health insurance or reduce their access to health care services. For example, Rhode Island eliminated health coverage for 1,000 low-income parents; Minnesota is cancelling a health insurance program for 29,500 low-income adults; Tennessee has frozen enrollment in its state children’s health insurance program (CHIP); and California is increasing the costs borne by families of nearly 1 million children that participate in its CHIP program.Washington is increasing premiums by an average of 70 percent for a health plan serving low-income residents.
  • Programs for the elderly and disabled: At least 24 states plus the District of Columbia are cutting medical, rehabilitative, home care, or other services needed by low-income people who are elderly or have disabilities, or are significantly increasing the cost of these services. For example,Ohio made deep cuts to community mental health services and Arizona eliminated temporary health insurance for people with serious medical problems.
  • K-12 education: At least 29 states and the District of Columbia are cutting aid to K-12 schools and various education programs. California, Michigan, and Mississippi have made significant cuts to school aid. Hawaii is furloughing teachers for 17 days this year. A cut in funding means that as many as 10,000 children in Illinois may lose eligibility for early childhood education, and Massachusetts is reducing funding for a number of early care programs.
  • Higher education: At least 39 states have cut assistance to public colleges and universities, resulting in reductions in faculty and staff in addition to tuition increases. The University of California is increasing tuition by 32 percent. Tuition at all 11 public universities in Florida increased by 15 percent for the 2009-2010 school year. Students in Washington and other states face significant tuition increases as well, costing families hundreds of dollars per year. Michigan and New Mexico have made deep cuts to need-based financial aid programs.
  • State workforces: At least 42 states and the District of Columbia have made cuts affecting state government employees. At least 26 states have instituted hiring freezes, 14 states and the District of Columbia have announced layoffs, 26 have reduced state worker wages, and several have delayed scheduled pay increases (including cost of living adjustments). In total, state and local governments have eliminated a total of 151,000 jobs since August 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additional workers have lost pay and benefits.
The full report is HERE.

Foreign Views of the US?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Food or Shoes?

From Colorlines (h/t Poverty Law)

Since she was 16, Eva Hern├índez has worked a string of low-wage jobs. She’s prepared chicken at KFC, run the register at Dunkin Donuts, packed and sealed boxes at a produce company, and held other similar jobs in Hartford, Connecticut, where she was born and raised. These jobs haven’t paid enough for Eva, now 28, to support herself and her two young daughters. So for almost three years in the last decade, she’s relied on welfare to supplement her income. Most of the time, though, she’s simply found another low-wage job, a task that in this economy is proving almost impossible.

In March 2009, in the midst of the worst job crisis in at least a generation, Eva opened the last welfare check she will ever receive. She is one of a growing number of people in the United States who can’t find work in this recession but don’t qualify for government cash assistance, no matter how poor they are or how bad the economy gets.

Without the help of welfare, Eva doesn’t have enough money left at the end of each month to feed her daughters full meals. It is the first time in her life, she said, that she hasn’t had enough money for food.

Now, with no other source of income, Eva breaks the law, selling her food stamps to pay for the rent, phone bill, detergent and tampons.On the first day of each month, when her food stamps arrive, she walks to the convenience store up the street, buys food for her family with her food stamp card and uses it to pay off the debt she accumulated the previous month after she ran out of money. She then trades in the remaining balance for cash. Although the bodega is more expensive than larger chain grocery stores nearby, she’s locked into shopping here because places like Wal-Mart won’t let her keep a tab—or exchange her food stamps for desperately needed cash. . . . .

Read the rest.


1 in 14

From the NYT:

Here and in swaths of many cities, evictions from rental properties are so common that they are part of the texture of life. New research is showing that eviction is a particular burden on low-income black women, often single mothers, who have an easier time renting apartments than their male counterparts, but are vulnerable to losing them because their wages or public benefits have not kept up with the cost of housing.

And evictions, in turn, can easily throw families into cascades of turmoil and debt.

“Just as incarceration has become typical in the lives of poor black men, eviction has become typical in the lives of poor black women,” said Matthew Desmond, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin whose research on trends in Milwaukee since 2002 provides a rare portrait of gender patterns in inner-city rentals.

The study found that one of every 25 renter-occupied households in the city is evicted each year. In black neighborhoods, the rate is one in 14. These figures include only court-ordered evictions; the true toll, experts say, is greater because far more tenants, under threat of eviction, move in with relatives, into more run-down apartments or, sometimes, into homeless shelters.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

One in Eight

From Feeding America: they help supply food banks (warehouses stocked with food) which, in turn, deliver it to local soup kitchens (where you eat on site) or food pantries (where you can get bags of groceries to take home, if you have a home):

A landmark study released today from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, reports that more than 37 million people, one in eight Americans -- including 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors -- receive emergency food each year through the nation’s network of food banks and the agencies they serve. The findings represent a staggering 46 percent increase since the organization’s previously released study in 2006.

Hunger in America 2010 is the first research study to capture the significant connection between the recent economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance. The number of children and adults in need of food as a result of experiencing food insecurity has significantly increased.

More than one in three client households are experiencing very low food security—or hunger—a 54 percent increase in the number of households compared to four years ago.

An estimated 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other agency served by one of Feeding America’s more than 200 food banks. This is a 27 percent increase over numbers reported in Hunger in America 2006, which reported that 4.5 million people were served each week.

"Clearly, the economic recession, resulting in dramatically increasing unemployment nationwide, has driven unprecedented, sharp increases in the need for emergency food assistance and enrollment in federal nutrition programs,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “Hunger in America 2010 exposes the absolutely tragic reality of just how many people in our nation don’t have enough to eat. Millions our clients are families with children finding themselves in need of food assistance for the very first time.”

Many of the people served by Feeding America food banks report they are struggling with unemployment, difficult choices between food and other basic necessities along with the pressures of skyrocketing healthcare costs. While 36 percent of client households have at least one adult working, Hunger in America 2010 reports a 68 percent increase over four years ago in the number of adults seeking emergency food assistance who have been unemployed for under a year. More than 46 percent of clients served report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food; 39 percent said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food; 34 percent report having to choose between paying for medical bills and food; and 35 percent must choose between transportation and food.

“It is morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where one in six people are struggling to make choices between food and other basic necessities,” said Escarra. “These are choices that no one should have to make, but particularly households with children. Insufficient nutrition has adverse effects on the physical, behavioral and mental health, and academic performance of children. It is critical that we ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in America as they truly are our engine of economic growth and future vitality.”

The methodology incorporated into the 2010 study includes data collected from February through June 2009. Feeding America collected quantitative feedback from 61,000 face-to-face in-depth interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance and more than 37,000 agency surveys, making this the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted on domestic hunger. The results are based on surveys conducted at food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding programs.

This report is based on independent research conducted on behalf of Feeding America by Mathematica Policy Research, a widely respected nonpartisan social policy research firm based in Princeton, New Jersey. Mathematica is nationally recognized as a leader in the field of human services research. Feeding America contracted with Mathematica to work with 185 network member participants who voluntarily agreed to collect data in their communities.

USDA reported in November 2009 that an estimated 49 million people, including 17 million children, are at risk of hunger. Hunger in America 2010 reinforces the dramatically increasing need for food assistance in the United States, with 70 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens and 73 percent of emergency shelters reporting that they are facing one or more problems that threaten their ability to continue operating. Problems relating to funds and food supplies were the two most commonly cited threats.

“While we have reached many more people over the past four years, the need of hungry Americans far outpaces our current level of service,” stated Escarra. “We will continue to partner with federal and state governments, corporate and individual donors and other hunger-relief organizations to bring more food and funds into the charitable distribution system and connect people with federal benefits until every man, woman and child has access to adequate food and nutrition.”

Among other key comparative findings in the report:

  • 50 percent increase in the number of children served annually.
  • 66 percent increase in the number of Hispanics served annually.
  • 26 percent increase in the number of African-Americans served annually.
  • 64 percent increase in the number of households with seniors facing very low food security—or hunger.
  • 59 percent increase in the number of client households reporting they have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and food.
  • 40 percent increase in the number of client households with at least one adult working.
  • 60 percent increase in the number of clients who report that someone in their household does not have access to health insurance.
  • 60 percent increase in the number of client households that have an unpaid medical or hospital bill.
  • 64 percent increase in the number of client households receiving SNAP benefits.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Birth of the Bureau of the Budget Blogging

Well, actually, it's the development of the B.O.B. (now O.M.B.), but where's the alliteration in that? Still, important stuff, and more fun than you may think.

UPDATE: Our friends at The Monkey Cage also point us toward this very, very cool NYT graphic. Go look, and, at the very least, hit the "Hide Mandatory Spending" button.

Friday, January 29, 2010

And I didn't get you anything. . . . .

I've just learned that it's National EITC Awareness Day! It is, in fact, among the most effective of American anti-poverty programs, which may be damning with faint praise, but still. . . . . .

More info from our friends at the IRS here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spending Freeze?

Sullivan has a nice summary of reactions here. I'd add Robert Farley: "As a policy/PR stunt, the spending freeze seems geared entirely around satisfaction of the Washington Post editorial page."


Friday, January 22, 2010

The Execrable Charles Murray

Charming, as always:
Although the government distributed billions of these food coupons, or food stamps, over the last half-century, only a small number have survived since they were replaced by a debit-card-like system. Now this coupon — and the master dye used to make the plate that created it — will be enshrined in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which on Thursday announced that it has acquired a large trove of materials related to the food-stamp program.

The materials, long housed at the Agriculture Department, which runs the program, were headed for disposal until last summer, when two museum volunteers alerted curators and helped arrange for the most significant items — nearly 200 in all — to be transferred and preserved. The items include food coupons, booklets, proof sheets, early artists’ designs and printer’s plates.

“What we did, effectively, was go over and cherry-pick the collection,” Richard Doty, senior curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the museum, said on Thursday. “We wanted to tell a story with it.”

The museum’s director, Brent D. Glass, said the acquisition was “especially significant considering the current economic hardships facing Americans today.”

A record number of people — 38 million, or nearly one in eight Americans — are now using food stamps, and nearly half of food stamp users are children. Some six million people report that food stamps are their only form of income.

Michael B. Katz, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and an authority on welfare and social policy, applauded the acquisition. “It shows an attention to the history of social policy, which is an important part of the history of this country that is relatively neglected by that museum,” he said.

Others took a dimmer view. “A roomful of material relating to food stamps is another example of why museums aren’t much fun anymore,” said Charles Murray, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who believes that welfare programs promote dependency. “I get chills when I go to a great museum and see Jefferson’s writing desk or the coat Nelson was wearing at Trafalgar,” he added, whereas an acquisition like this amounts to little more than political correctness. (“It’s spinach, and it’s good for us,” Mr. Murray said. “I say to hell with it.”)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Other King

From the Center for American Progress:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shifted his focus in the dwindling years of his life to an audacious, but achievable goal: ending poverty in the United States.

In his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King argued that the United States must change its attitude and approach toward the treatment of its poor citizens. He reasoned that since poverty knew no racial boundaries, he couldn’t limit his call for congressional action to assist only black Americans.

“In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out,” King wrote in 1967. “There are twice as many white poor as [black] poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and [black] alike.”

This was a radical—and unpopular—change for the preacher who is best known for pushing voting, employment, housing, and other civil rights for black Americans. At this point in his career, during what would become the final months of his life, he was widening his field of vision to seek an end to poverty among all Americans.

It’s appropriate as we pause to celebrate this year’s national holiday in memory of King’s 81st birthday to recall the relevance of his final struggle to the contemporary fight against poverty.

Read the Rest here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Via Reuters:

The latest budget plan from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would force 200,000 children off low-cost medical insurance, end in-home care for 350,000 infirm and elderly citizens and slash income assistance to hundreds of thousands more.

And that's the best-case scenario under Schwarzenegger's prescription for filling the state's $19.9 billion deficit.

Refusing to consider broad tax hikes, he is relying mostly on $8.5 billion in reduced expenditures including drastic cuts to health and social spending that has long made California one of the leading U.S. states in providing help to the needy.

Schwarzenegger also is counting on the U.S. government contributing nearly $7 billion that he says is due California because of various federal mandates.

If federal money fails to materialize, the governor's plan would trigger deeper cuts that would dismantle entire programs, including the state's welfare-to-work system, CalWorks.

. . . .

"You're blowing entire holes in the safety net," said Kelly Brooks, an analyst for the California State Association of Counties, which lobbies on behalf of county governments that stand to bear much of the added burden from such cuts.

No one understands better than Anthony Arias, 25, who sought assistance from CalWorks in 2008 after he was laid off from his warehouse job in the midst of the recession.

Unable to find steady work, and sharing custody of his 3-year-old son, Arias had to drop out of community college east of Los Angeles as he slipped into a financial tailspin.

"It was getting bad to the point where there were days when I didn't have food," he recalled.

But with a monthly CalWorks check that helps pay his rent, and state-subsidized child support, Arias has since managed to complete training to become a barber -- a more gainful vocation with flexible hours that will enable him to return to school to earn a degree as a paralegal assistant.

"There's no way I would have been able to survive without the help of CalWorks," he said.

Arias is just one of 1.3 million CalWorks beneficiaries -- most of them children -- who will see their monthly assistance checks cut by 16 percent under Schwarzenegger's proposal, even if federal dollars sought by the governor arrive.

. . . .

Others programs on the chopping block include transitional housing for foster youth; low-cost Healthy Families medical insurance for needy children, the Medi-Cal healthcare plan for the poor, and a network of subsidized in-home care for the elderly and disabled.

At least 200,000 children are slated to lose eligibility for Healthy Families, with that number growing to 900,000 if the program is gutted entirely.

Nearly 90 percent of the 400,000 recipients of In-Home Support Services stand to lose care under Schwarzenegger's best-case scenario, and state reimbursements to providers of those who remain would be slashed to minimum-wage levels. Otherwise, the program would be abolished, throwing 350,000 caregivers out of work.

. . . . . .

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Tattered Safety Net

The state of anti-poverty policy, such as it is. A panel discussion from the Woodrow Wilson Center, with Peter Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Maria Foscarinis, Alice O'Connor, and Margaret Simms. Go -- watch.

UPDATE: Follow along at home: