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Archive for the ‘welfare’ Category

Developer Mark Croce will be receiving a $1.35 million hand-out from New York State tax payers to turn a vacant downtown building into an “upscale boutique hotel at Franklin and West Huron streets.” Croce is “convinced there’s a market for an upscale boutique hotel that offers larger rooms with some unique amenities.”

This handout is coming in the form of a Restore NY grant which is intended to “stabilize neighborhoods and revitalize urban areas.”

Which neighborhood is being stabilized here?

Who will benefit from this kind of urban revitalization? The “upscale” market Croce is convinced is out there–we’ll say those households making more than $150,000/year–accounts for about 3% of households in Buffalo.

In other words, $1.35 million of public money will be used to provide a tiny part of the community with presidential suites, pent-houses, and “unique amenities.”

This is money that could be used to stabilize or revitalize the neighborhoods of the 30.3% of people living in poverty in Buffalo, still the third poorest city in the country. This money could even be used to provide basic housing to the hundreds of individuals and families that are homeless on any given day in Buffalo.

Instead this public money will be used to help a wealthy developer provide upscale hotel suites for wealthy travelers and community members.

The County is also looking to tear down buildings in downtown Buffalo. In an effort to avoid being held responsible to Constitutional standards for jails and prisons, the county wants to build a new multimillion dollar county lockup downtown.

Hotels for the wealthy, expensive jails for the rest of us.

Is this how the people of Buffalo and Erie County want their money spent?

Does this benefit the whole or even very much of the community?

Or does it continue to subsidize wealthy developers and their clients while a third of the city lives in poverty?

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Here’s an article that counters some of the attacks on Henrietta Hughes, a homeless woman who spoke at a town hall meeting that President Obama attended about a week ago.  The author “Cara” highlights the way that many people critical of social welfare focus solely on individual responsibility (even when virtually nothing is known about the person’s history) and neglect to examine the larger, systematic inequalities in our economy that impoverishes many people, like Hughes.  In addition, Hughes’ statement highlights the primary need of homeless individuals: housing first.

Posted by Cara, Feministe at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2009.

For those who have not heard of Henrietta Hughes, she is a homeless woman who stood up at a town hall meeting and told Barack Obama that she is unemployed and has been forced her to live in her car.  She further pleaded with the president to do something to ensure that people like her had housing:

“I have an urgent need, unemployment and homelessness, a very small vehicle for my family and I to live in,” she said. “The housing authority has two years’ waiting lists, and we need something more than the vehicle and the parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.”

Now, Michelle Malkin has decided to publicly mock her with taunts like “If she had more time, she probably would have remembered to ask Obama to fill up her gas tank, too.”  She then went on to say:

Hughes didn’t explain the cause of her financial turmoil. Obama didn’t ask. And if we conservatives dare to question the circumstances — and the underlying assumption that it is government’s (that is, taxpayers’) role to bail her out — we’ll be lambasted as cruel haters of the downtrodden.

[. . .]

Well, pardon my unbending belief in fairness and personal responsibility, but why should my tax dollars go to feed the housing entitlement beast?

Indeed, why should housing be considered a right?  After all, what does my housing say about my personal class status and how much better I am than other people, if there aren’t those other people out there who don’t have a place to live at all?

The worst part is that Malkin isn’t alone.  From Limbaugh falsely saying that Hughes “ask[ed] for a car” to others claiming that Hughes is “milking the system,” there’s no shortage of people who want to bring down the woman who had the potential to a far more sympathetic Joe the Plumber — an everyday American who is actually negatively affected by the economic policies of our government.

And they can get away with it!  I just, honestly, do not understand.  Are people like Malkin really so privileged and entitled themselves that they just do not comprehend the very concept of housing not owned by the person living in it — and that therefore “I need a place to live” does not equal “buy me a new house, please” — or do they just really think that no, if you’re not as fortunate as the rest of us, you really do deserve to live on the street, and as a neighbor I have absolutely no responsibility for what happens to you?

On second thought, I don’t know that I want the answer to that.

Via Womanist Musings

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/127177

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With the looming 40% increase in fuel costs reported by National Grid, this article from Business First of Louisville is a reminder of the significant increase in the basic cost of living for many Americans. There can be no doubt that energy bills per month are much higher in Buffalo.

Moreover, these figures are taken during the month of August and therefore reflect gas costs outside of winter.

What is desperately needed if low-income families are expected to keep up with the high cost of heat would be:

1) Raise the welfare grant to reflect true cost of living. Currently, TANF allots $54/month for heating costs. This does not reflect the true cost of heat.
2) Support the development of green building policies and weatherization programs. These policies would not only increase the energy efficiency of homes throughout New York State but would also support construction jobs, thereby strengthening our economy from the ground up. Low-income families living in more energy efficient homes would be able to save the money currently being thrown away on gas, or spend it on other basic needs such as transportation or health care.

More on this behind the jump.

(more…)

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It was totally predictable it would collapse. You know, I didn’t know when, didn’t know exactly who, but it was totally predictable. And now they’re running to us and asking us for handouts. Think of what we do to welfare people, when they—you know, everything they have to go through to get, you know, a $500-a-month check, and these people want billions, no questions asked. Unbelievable.
Dean Baker, co-Director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research

If the Paulson Plan passes and American taxpayers are responsible for at least $700 of Wall Street debt – whether for good or for bad for our economy – never again should the charge be leveled against recipeints of public assistance that they shouldn’t get “handouts”, that they are “milking the system”, or that they are “hurting the economy”.

We are willing to throw $700 billion of unchecked funds at some of the richest Americans and we quibble about the $300-$400 that Social Services gives to those who have the least? The hypocrisy is thick.

Perhaps the recepients of the $700 billion should be subjected to invasive interviewing processes. Perhaps they should be finger-printed to receive a bailout. Perhaps they should wait in line for 4-5 hours and have their bailout “pending” for 45 days.

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make_poverty_history_wristband.jpg

Special thanks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer for the following summary of the remaining Presidential Candidates poverty platforms. More information can be found on the PD blog at the following link

Plain Dealer Blog.

Poverty platform:

Clinton:
• The author of “It Takes A Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us” targets the nearly 13 million children living in poverty, calling it a “blight on our nation’s conscience and our economic future.”
• The senator’s nine-page position paper focuses on specific actions she would take on issues ranging from enforcing child support payments to nurse home visitation for new at-risk mothers.
On a larger scale, the Senator touts universal health care, a moratorium on foreclosures, and the creation of at least 5 million “green collar” jobs for low-wage workers.

Obama:
• The former Chicago activist describes his anti-poverty policies as “the single most important focus of my economic agenda as president.”
• Details are sketchy, but include access to safe, affordable housing, job programs, and financial and medical assistance to single parents.

McCain:
• America’s most famous POW takes aim at urban poverty by taking back the streets, improving urban school systems and updating job training programs.
• Again, specifics are vague.

New ideas:

Clinton:
•The former first lady would work to end child hunger by strengthening the food stamp program, improving the food safety net and providing more access to healthy, fresh food.
•She would provide economic opportunity to low-income families by raising the minimum wage, and expanding new job training opportunities.
•She would also establish a pilot program to reduce homelessness among veterans, and develop a community based re-entry plan to help ex-offenders receive job training and placement as well as drug and mental health counseling.

Obama:
• The son of a single mother, his most ambitious anti-poverty policy would be to replicate the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone in 20 cities nationwide.
• He also wants to spend $1 billion for a jobs program that would place the unemployed into temporary jobs and train them for permanent ones.
• He would also offer incentives for businesses to relocate, or start-up, in distressed inner cities.

McCain
• The former naval aviator equates economic prosperity to the war on terrorism. “For the same reason you have to fight the war against the Islamic extremists on the international level, you have to ensure the streets are safe so people can go to work and businesses can operate,’ said the senator’s senior policy advisor.
• The burgeoning crime rate is compounded by an inhospitable economic climate that McCain would fight by lowering taxes and improving business investment incentives.

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Speaking of raises …
First published: Sunday, January 13, 2008

It’ll be easy enough to be confused, if not overwhelmed, with the state Legislature back in session and the special interests descending upon lawmakers peddling causes both noble and ignoble.

There ought to be perhaps more pressure than ever to raise the pay of the state’s judges for the first time in a decade. The judges themselves are making the very persuasive case one would expect of them. Then, again, it’s a safe bet that the very legislators whose votes are needed to give those judges a raise will demand one for themselves as well — lame as that argument is, at least until they can reform the Legislature first.

But what about the poor, the people living on government subsides?

State welfare benefits haven’t been increased since 1990. What’s known as the basic welfare grant for a family of three has been stuck all those years at $291 a month. A family of three on welfare also can get up to $426 a month in food stamps and a shelter allowance of a little more than $300 a month. The specific amount of the housing subsidy varies from county to county.

It’s unconscionable that the Legislature has gone this long without adjusting basic welfare benefits.

Everyone is affected by inflation, of course, from judges and legislators to the poorest of the poor. That latter group, in fact, may well be hit all the harder since so much of the little money it has goes to the most basic of necessities.

The price of milk, for instance, has gone up by 94 percent since 1990. The price of fuel oil and natural gas are about twice as high now than they were when the subsidy for home heating costs last was adjusted in 1987. In each case, that’s much higher than the overall 55 percent increase in the rate of inflation since 1990.

New York’s courts, including the Court of Appeals, have ruled five times since 1987 that the welfare shelter allowance is illegally low. That requires welfare families to use part of their basic grant, scant as it is, to subsidize housing costs.

Even now, more than a decade after rewritten welfare laws reduced the number of New Yorkers on public assistance by 61 percent, more than 535,000 people — including more than 300,000 children — live this way. They need the Legislature’s attention as much as anyone. A cost of living adjustment in the basic welfare grant, to $475 a month for a family of three, is urgent.

The Assembly, but not the Senate, voted for a 10 percent increase in the basic welfare grant last year. This year the Democrats in the Senate are pushing for a 25 percent increase.

That money is readily available, too, despite the state’s $4.3 billion budget deficit. Federal block grants pay for the state’s welfare costs. Other states have used the block grant since 1996 to raise welfare benefits. New York, though, has invested it in so-called rainy day funds.

And now it’s raining, and raining hard, on the people who most need state government’s help.

THE ISSUE: The state’s welfare grant hasn’t be raised in years.

THE STAKES: Without an increase, inflation will erode subsistence funds even more.

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Our friends at the Western New York Coalition for the Homeless have put together another great workshop for the community regarding the Department of Social Services.

The workshop will take place on Wednesday, January 30th from 8:30am to 4pm. It will be at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo. 

More a conference than a workshop, the all-day event gathers together human services advocates and Department of Social Services representatives to announce changes in mainstream benefit programs, update on eligibility requirements and application processes, and troubleshoot barriers to service.

This year’s workshop will be more interactive with opportunities for advocates to speak with DSS representatives about frequent concerns.

The Homeless Alliance is excited to see how motivated the advocates are in our community to put together an event like this and encouraged by the willingness of the Department of Social Services to participate in this event.

If you would like to register for the workshop, it is $15/person if you register before Jan. 18th; after that date registration is $20 (this includes lunch, beverages, and snacks). Either way, this is a very affordable fee for an all-day workshop with this much information. Make your checks out to “WNY Coalition for the Homeless” and mail them to:

Adrian Slocum
c/o Catholic Charities
525 Washington Street
Buffalo, NY 14203

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