News about high rent and cuts to housing programs keep grabbing my attention. Three of weeks ago, NPR took a look at the personal toll sequestration is taking on people struggling to secure affordable housing. Sequester Puts Some Needing Housing Aid ‘Back To Square One’ tells the story of two people who waited years to receive their housing voucher, only to have them rescinded due to budget cuts.
One young woman spent seven years on the waitlist for assistance. While she waited, she lost her job, and then her housing. Word eventually came that she was approved for a voucher, but before she was able to secure housing it was revoked due to budget cuts. A Virginia man waited ten years for a voucher. He was finally scheduled for an interview with the housing authority, but it too was canceled due budget concerns. He continues to live on the street.
These dashed hopes are an outcome of sequestration, but the long wait times are part of a bigger problem. As mentioned in another NPR story, recent cuts came on top of a 25% cut to voucher programs in January of 2012.
Both NPR reports, and other sources, have supplied details on how housing authorities around the country are dealing with the loss of funding.
- In Connecticut, the city of Hartford rescinded 88 newly issued vouchers.
- Fort Worth, Texas rescinded 99 vouchers for families who had not yet signed a lease.
- In Minnesota, 160 vouchers were put on hold. Continue Reading »
Posted in housing, Policy, Research & Data | Tagged Housing Choice Vouchers, Rental Assistance, Sequestration | Leave a Comment »
Today’s guest post is written by Ken Wenglewski, Manager of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Last month, Ken had a chance to see firsthand the challenges and rewards of running a public school. We thought his experience was a great way to show how people can create and maintain links between schools and the neighborhoods.
On April 5th, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Tulsa Public Schools’ “Principal for a Day” at Rogers High School, under the leadership of Stacey Vernon. Stacey was awarded Principle of the Year so it was an honor to shadow her work.
Coming to Rogers was a bit surreal. My wife attended Rogers so walking the halls was very nostalgic.
My day started by working with the Assistant Principal Kendra Bremlett. We talked about her role as support for Stacey. We also spoke of the exciting things that will be happening this Fall with the implementation of College Summit; one of our department’s educational partners.
Later, Stacy took over and we met with April Dalto, a science teacher who had her class cook hotdogs with natural sunlight. The class was energetic, engaged and very creative.
Back in Stacy’s office, I was offered the opportunity to communicate through an Auto-dialer system called School Connects. I read a script out loud, on the phone, telling parents to show up at a bowling event. I had a blast sounding like a DJ for a radio station!
There was another memorable moment back at Stacey’s office. She has a pinball machine in the back office that she likes to use when she isn’t buried in instructional leadership duties. Needless to say, it isn’t used very often.
To that point, the most amazing thing that I observed with Stacey was her ability to know all of the students by name. Continue Reading »
Posted in education, Laughter, Stories | Tagged Neighborhood Revitalization, Principal for a Day, Tulsa Public Schools, Will Rogers High School | Leave a Comment »
A new study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) should catch the attention of anyone advocating for stronger regulation of the payday loan industry and deposit advances. Initial findings were recently released under the title Payday Loans and Deposit Advance Products. According to CFED, it is one of the most comprehensive studies conducted on the subject so far, as it included data on millions of borrowers. As stated by CFPB Director Richard Cordray, the study shows common industry practices put consumers at long-term financial risk and often serve as “debt traps” instead of a simple short-term, emergency loan. The individual who borrows the money may find it necessary to take out another loan to pay off the first, and it creates a cycle of indebtedness.
Today’s blog post will concentrate on the payday lending portion of the report. As the name suggests, payday loans are often due by the borrower’s next pay period. These loans exploit a considerable number of low-income borrowers who lack the cash flow to quickly dig themselves out of short-term loan as the extra fees quickly accumulate. The average annual income for a borrower was found to be $26,167, but a quarter of borrowers report an annual income of $14,172 or lower. Three quarters of those borrowing money were employed full- or part-time, and the rest had fixed incomes due to retirement, disability or other assistance.
Borrowers are often repeat customers, Continue Reading »
Posted in Economic Security & Advancement, Policy, Research & Data | Tagged Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Payday Loans, Predatory Lending | Leave a Comment »
According to a recent study by Demos, three important factors are linked with a poor credit report: unemployment, lack of health coverage and medical debt. Needless to say, the recent recession created an environment where a good credit report was a likely casualty, as many families struggled with job loss. Ironically, one of the barriers unemployed job applicants may face as they search for a good job, with a living wage, is the credit report that took such a hit during their period of unemployment.
As the Demos report explains, federal law requires employers to have written permission before requesting an applicant’s credit report. The catch is, employers can refuse to hire employees who refuse to give permission. And although federal law also requires employers to disclose when credit information is the basis for denying someone a job, the denial of employment for this reason is legal in most cases.
During the Great Recession, many uninsured, unemployed Americans saw debt accumulate due to health issues or other emergencies beyond their control. This record of unpaid debt now sits on their credit reports and is part of what potential employers may see as they make hiring decisions. For some quick perspective on the number of people potentially impacted by this issue, consider that: Continue Reading »
Posted in Economic Security & Advancement, Jobs/Workforce, Policy, Research & Data | Tagged Credit Reports, Demos, Employment, Medical Debt | Leave a Comment »
I’m often inspired by the innovative ideas being developed to help low-income families meet both present and future needs. One example I recently shared highlighted community gardens that provide fresh food to low-income neighborhoods in Tulsa. Today, I’m drawing inspiration from the economic seeds being planted through San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College (K2C) program.
Launched in 2011 by the City and County of San Francisco, K2C is the first publicly funded, universal children’s savings account program in the country. Operated through the city’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), the program ensures every kindergarten student in the San Francisco Unified School District is automatically enrolled in a College Savings Account. Accounts are seeded with $50 provided by the city-county government, with students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program receiving an additional $50.
Accounts are designed to make contributing as easy as possible by allowing relatives and extended family to deposit money by mail, online, or in person. There is no minimum deposit amount required, so families can give what they can afford, when they can afford it. Partnerships with local foundations, organizations and businesses also provide matching funds for promotions that encourage families to save regularly and speed the growth of account balances.
The program is still relatively new but the results so far are encouraging. As of 2012, over Continue Reading »
Posted in Asset Building, education, Innovation, Program Evaluations | Tagged College Savings Accounts, Kindergarten to College, San Francisco | Leave a Comment »
A couple of weeks ago I posted about the lack of affordable rental housing for families with low-income. In essence, there is no state in the country where fair market rent is affordable for a single worker at minimum wage. A partial solution to this crisis is provided by federal housing assistance, through vouchers or public housing. However there are often waiting lists for these programs, as the demand outpaces the availability of funds.
Now, a recently released paper, authored by Douglas Rice of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), lays out what sequestration cuts will mean for families who are either currently receiving housing assistance or on the waitlist. The extremely short version is that state and federal agencies will probably have to cut assistance to about 140,000 families by early 2014 – and that just represents funding cuts for Housing Choice Vouchers, sometimes referred to as Section 8 Vouchers. The chart below gives a more detailed look at the cuts to vouchers, public housing, homeless assistance and other housing programs.
In Oklahoma, some of the pressure is already being felt by the agencies that receive and distribute federal housing assistance. The Muskogee Phoenix reported in March that the Muskogee Housing Authority is expecting a $153,000 decrease in funds for Section 8 vouchers and an additional $167,000 decrease in funds for public housing programs. While the housing authority has Continue Reading »
Posted in housing, Policy, Research & Data | Tagged Housing Assistance, Housing Choice Vouchers, Sequestration | Leave a Comment »
This post was written by Paul Shinn, CAP’s Public Policy Analyst.
CAP Tulsa recently published the second issue in our Better Benefits for Oklahoma Families series, covering Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF is the only program that provides cash assistance to very low-income families with children. Too many Oklahoma children go without this essential support and are thus at risk for child maltreatment, poor health, and not succeeding in school.
Since federal welfare reform in 1996, Oklahoma has dramatically reduced its help to these most needy of families and children, even though there has been no drop in child poverty. As the chart below shows, Oklahoma only provides TANF cash assistance to 4,100 poor families, down from more than 30,000 in 1996. While TANF participation has fallen across the nation, Oklahoma’s drop has been much more severe.
While the welfare reforms were designed to move families from welfare to self-sufficiency, that’s simply not possible the way Oklahoma operates TANF. Several factors play a role.
- Income guidelines keep most families who need help from getting it. The most a family of three can make and qualify for TANF in Oklahoma is $824 per month, only half the poverty level.
- TANF benefits are too low to do anything but fight off an emergency. The most a family of three can receive is $292 a month, well below the national average of $429. Many families don’t even qualify for this maximum benefit, which is only equivalent to 20 percent of the poverty level. Since Oklahoma has not raised benefits, the current payment to families is 32 percent less than in 1996, adjusting for inflation.
- Most families do not receive assistance long enough to support themselves. More than half of Oklahoma families get TANF help for less than a full year. One reason is Oklahoma’s strict sanctions policy that denies help to the whole family, even young children, for minor violations of program rules.
Oklahoma can continue its strict approach to TANF cash assistance, Continue Reading »
Posted in Economic Security & Advancement | Tagged children, Oklahoma, Poverty, TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families | Leave a Comment »