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‘Back To Square One’ tells the story of two people who waited years to receive their housing voucher, only to have them rescinded due to budget cuts.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 Word eventually came that she was approved for a voucher, but before she was able to secure housing it was revoked due to budget cuts.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- In Connecticut, the city of Hartford rescinded 88 newly issued vouchers.
- Fort Worth, Texas rescinded 99 vouchers for families who had not yet signed a lease.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. (more…)
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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, (more…)
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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: (more…)
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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 (more…)
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In May of 2011 our previous blog host, Elizabeth, wrote a couple of posts about the affordability of rental housing. (You can check them out by clicking here and here). I ran across her posts while searching for some background information on housing issues here in Tulsa. The numbers were nearly two years old, so I did a little digging to see what had changed. So far, I can tell you the answer is: not much.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) recommends households spend no more than 30% of their income on housing. To calculate what is called the “housing wage” researchers take a person working full-time, and then calculate the hourly rate he or she would need in order to pay only 30% of their income towards rent.
The numbers have changed only slightly over the past two years. In 2011, the NLIHC stated the annual income needed to afford a 2 bedroom unit at fair market rent in Tulsa was $28,440. For 2013, the NLIHC lists that figure at $28,840, an increase of $400 annually. (Click here for the Oklahoma Data .pdf) This means households in the Tulsa Metro Area require either a single renter earning at least $13.87 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at FMR, or basically 2 adults working full-time at minimum wage. (more…)
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Life seems to be measured in Seasons. The Holiday and Football Seasons are behind us; the Tax Season and Baseball Season are now upon us. (Pitchers and catchers officially began reporting on Feb. 11th.) But until the taxes are filed and regular season games begin, Tax Season takes precedence even over baseball in the minds of most Americans. While the season may be met with anticipation by some and dread by others, for many low and moderate income families and policymakers, there is relief at the recent extension of some key tax provisions. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) blogged about, Congress recently extended some important components of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) through 2017.
To understand why these extensions are important we need to understand what makes them examples of good policy. The EITC and the CTC are appealing to many policymakers because they encourage work and strengthen a family’s finances. These credits encourage employment because individuals must report earned income to be eligible for the credits. They also give workers an incentive to achieve higher wages because the more an individual earns the larger their credit will be, until it begins to phase out at higher income levels. Another key advantage to low-income families is that the tax credits are refundable, meaning that if the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed by a low-wage worker, the IRS will still refund all or part of the balance. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware of the EITC. Estimates show that one out of five eligible taxpayers failed to take advantage of it in 2011 alone. It’s like hitting a home run, and failing to tag all the bases; many families earned the tax credit, but never took the necessary steps to receive the benefit.
Now we turn to the importance of these extensions in the lives of American families. The EITC, which lifted an estimated 3 million children out of poverty in 2011, had two important elements added in the 2009 Recovery Act. (more…)
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CFED recently released their 2013 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, subtitled Living on the Edge: Financial Security and Policies to Rebuild American Prosperity. It details how millions of Americans are still just getting by in the wake of the recession, and for Oklahoma the data highlights two or three real problem areas. However, before we take the plunge into a sea of disconcerting data, there are two bright spots. Oklahoma earned the second highest rank among the states in Early Childhood Education participation, an especially relevant figure since CAP Tulsa is an early childhood program provider. The state can also boast of a low unemployment rate, the fifth best in the country. However, the high marks do not carry over to other areas of the Scorecard.
The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard examines the financial security of Americans by assessing states based on 69 different outcome measures. The measures are grouped into five broader categories: 1) Financial Assets and Income, 2) Business and Jobs; 3) Housing and Homeownership; 4) Health Care; and 5) Education. Oklahoma’s general report card, shown below, reflects a mixture of good news and bad news:
- D – Financial Assets & Income
- B – Business & Jobs
- B – Housing & Homeownership
- D – Health Care
- C – Education
For more detail on all of Oklahoma’s results, you can click here. For now, to better understand what these grades mean, we will take a quick look at just two of Oklahoma’s problem areas: 1) Financial Assets and Income; and 2) Health Care. (more…)
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For anyone following Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Twitter, or keeping up with him in the news, Tuesday, December 4th was the big day. Booker will try to live a week on the monetary equivalent of the average SNAP benefit, which comes out to $1.40 a meal. Newark’s mayor will demonstrate how tough it is for low-income families to cover the cost of a healthy diet, especially if the main resource for their grocery budget is SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. Booker is not the first politician to take the challenge. However, his prominence has turned the endeavor into national news, and it is worth a brief discussion about how the numbers play out in Oklahoma, where 880,939 people received SNAP benefits in 2011.
First some background. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is designed to do just what the name suggests: act as a supplement to other income. Recent numbers from the American Community Survey (ACS) show the program is largely living up to its name in Oklahoma, where an estimated 77% of participants are working families.
The supplemental income provided by SNAP in Oklahoma amounts to $1541.16 annually. The value is loaded onto a card, similar to a debit card, and funds can only be used on qualified food items; so no diapers, no alcohol, no dog food, and no vitamins. To qualify in Oklahoma monthly household income for a family of four must fall below $2,422, or $29,064 annually. Combining the average SNAP benefit with the maximum allowable income in this scenario puts total household income at $30,605.16. According to Federal Poverty Guidelines, this combined total puts a family of four at about 137% of (more…)
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Georgetown’s Health Policy Institute has been busy analyzing health insurance trends across the country using data taken largely from the American Community Survey (ACS), a product of the U. S. Census Bureau discussed in a previous post. Their findings laud the drop in the number of uninsured children nationally, while pointing out the disparities among states, as thirty states failed to show any improvement in this area. By and large, it was the increase in the number of insured children in states like Texas, Florida and California that drove up the national average, not improvements across the entire country. Georgetown researchers attribute the large gains in those states to new policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the fact there were so many uninsured children in those three states to begin with.
In 2011, the number of uninsured children fell to around 5.5 million, down from nearly 6.4 million in 2009. Since there has been no significant decrease in the number of children living in poverty, the drop shows how changes in policy and programs are making a positive impact. This report gives us a starting point to begin comparing successful practices and determine what changes still need to be made across the country. But in essence, to tackle this problem states need to increase access to existing programs and take the opportunity to expand coverage using funds from the upcoming Medicaid expansion. (more…)
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Posted in Community Partnerships, Food and Nutrition, Health, Poverty, Research & Data, Women, tagged cancer studies, food and nutrition, Intergenerational Poverty, women's health on October 16, 2012 |
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We know it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because pink ribbons abound and players are wearing pink shoes on Monday Night Football. The byword is, of course, awareness, but that leads me to wonder what aspect of the issue we should focus on. Besides the importance of early detection, what else should Americans be aware of, given the fact that breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths for women in the United States? Perhaps a greater emphasis should be put on access to care, nutrition and the link between poverty and survival rates.
Since 1975, breast cancer survival rates have been increasing, but there is a disparity of outcomes tied to demographics. The American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Facts and Figures: 2011 – 2012, tells us that poverty and lack of health insurance are associated with higher mortality rates. We know that early detection is vital to long-term survival, but lack of resources and insurance means many women go without recommended screenings. Another concern is the disparity in medical treatment after diagnosis for patients with lower-income, as well as the presence of additional health issues, which brings us again to the issue of insurance coverage. These are crucial barriers to overcome, yet there is more to it than just income and insurance, as recent research is finding nutrition to be another important component. (more…)
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