Archive for the ‘budget’ Category

Over the past few decades and especially since the onset of  the “Great Recession,” city, county, and state governments around the country have had to cope with increasingly dire budget deficits. The go-to solution for many policy makers has been to make large funding cuts to programs that address poverty and inequality.

While this may help balance some budgets in the short term, recent reports find that not addressing poverty and inequality, especially child poverty, ends up costing billions more in the long term.

In 2007 the Center for American Progress released The Economic Costs of Poverty in the United States: Subsequent Effects of Children Growing Up Poor. In it they found:

Most arguments for reducing poverty in the U.S., especially among children, rest on a moral case for doing so—one that emphasizes the unfairness of child poverty, and how it runs counter to our national creed of equal opportunity for all.

But there is also an economic case for reducing child poverty. When children grow up in poverty, they are somewhat more likely than non-poor children to have low earnings as adults, which in turn reflects lower workforce productivity. They are also somewhat more likely to engage in crime (though that’s not the case for the vast majority) and to have poor health later in life. Their reduced productive activity generates a direct loss of goods and services to the U.S. economy.

What’s more, crime often imposes large monetary costs to the taxpayer, costs associated with administering our huge criminal justice system. And their poor health generates illness and early mortality which not only require large healthcare expenditures, but also will  impede productivity and ultimately reduce their quality and quantity of life.

How much does childhood poverty end up costing the country?

The Center for American Progress’ report results suggest that the costs associated with childhood poverty  to the U.S. total about $500B per year, or the equivalent of nearly 4 percent of GDP.

In 2008 the Human Services Policy Center at the University of Washington released The Cost of Child Poverty State by State which broke down those costs by state.

The annual cost of New York’s 888,000 children growing up in poverty?

$33.4 billion.

Thanks to the New York State Community Action Association’s recently released 2010 New York State Poverty Report we can break that down by county.

The annual cost of Erie County’s 39,528 children growing up in poverty?

$1.51 billion.

This begs the question:

When running government like a business, does it not make sense to invest in ending poverty?


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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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That may seem like a ridiculous question.  Part of the reason I came to Buffalo was because I thought it was probably the most affordable place to live in the state*.  But the Center for Housing Policy‘s recently released report entitled Paycheck to Paycheck serves to remind us that for many working people, owning a home or even renting a 1BR apartment in Buffalo is unaffordable.

The report compares the wages of 60 occupations with the wages necessary to afford the cost of an average home ($100,000 including all associated costs) or the Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment in different states and metropolitan areas.  Housing  is usually considered affordable if it amounts to 30% of your budget.  For example, CHP calculates the income needed for a one-bedroom apartment by multiplying the Fair Market Rent for a one bedroom apartment by 3, which would roughly give you the income needed for that month to afford the apartment.  That monthly number is then multiplied by 12 to get the yearly income necessray.

The report found that while the wage necessary to afford a home decreased (much of that having to do with declining home prices) the wages for many occupations, construction-related occupations in particular, still are not high enough to afford a home and in severe cases a two-bedroom apartment.  Fair Market Rents continued to increase in most areas, which is very troubling given the big increases in unemployment and that renting is usually the more affordable option for low-income people.

The homeownerhsip and rental information for Buffalo, a town that most people consider a very cheap place to live, is also very troubling.  Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased from $704 in 2008 to $723 in 2009, a 2.7% increase.  Even more disturbing are the number of service sector wages that are not high enough to afford a one or two bedroom apartment, let alone a home.

Consider these graphs which show the income needed to afford a home, one bedroom, or two bedroom apartment in Buffalo along with the incomes of a selection of service sector occupations (which represents a large portion of the employment available in Buffalo):

Annual Income Needed to Afford a Home

homeownership 1

Other occupations that did not earh enough to afford a home included: hairdresser, home health aide, housekeeper, janitor, laundry worker, nursing aid, office clerk, packager, parking lot attendant, receptionist, retail salesperson, school bus driver, security guard, stock clerk, stock mover, telemarketer, and wait staff.


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Do you or anyone you know need help filing your income taxes?  Want this done free?  As a service to the community, CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) helps working families get the money and assistance they’ve earned by providing free income tax preparation and e-filing for those who may be less able to afford a paid tax preparer.

Typically, those who have worked in the past year and earned less than $40,000 are eligible. While most returns can be done, some may be more complex and need referral to a more specialized preparer.

The dates, places, and times that CASH will provide these services are listed below.  Help will also be available en Español.

**Distribute Widely**

1. Tue Mar 17 5pm – Tue Mar 17 8pm

Buffalo Psychiatric Center, 400 Forest Ave., Buffalo 14213

2. Thu Mar 19 5pm – Thu Mar 19 8pm

Riverside Library, 820 Tonawanda Street, Buffalo, NY 14207

3. Sat Mar 21 10am – Sat Mar 21 2pm

Trading Post Community Care Center 38 Franklin St., PO Box 96, Springville, NY 14141

4. Sun Mar 22 1pm – Sun Mar 22 4pm

Merriweather Library 1324 Jefferson Ave., Buffalo, NY 14208

5. Tue Mar 24 5pm – Tue Mar 24 8pm

Daemen College Wick Student Center, Daemen College, 4380 Main St., Amherst, NY 14226

6. Sat Mar 28 10am – Sat Mar 28 2pm

Love Inc. & Town of Concord Town Hall 86 Franklin, Springville 14141

7. Tue Mar 31 5pm – Tue Mar 31 8pm

MAP 271 Grant Ave., Buffalo, NY 14213

8. Sat Apr 4 10am – Sat Apr 4 1pm

Evans National Bank, 6840 Erie Road, Derby, NY 14047

9. Tue Apr 7 5pm – Tue Apr 7 8pm

Hispanics United, 254 Virginia, Buffalo, NY 14201

10. Sat Apr 11 10am – Sat Apr 11 1pm

Evans National Bank 8599 Erie Road, Evans, NY 14006

11. Tue Apr 14 5pm – Tue Apr 14 8pm

MAP 271 Grant, Buffalo, NY 14213



En Español:

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PPG’s 2009 Forum on Restoring Progressivity and Fairness in our Tax System.

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, will be speaking.

Tuesday February 17th at 4:00 pm

Cornell ILR, 237 Main Street, 12th floor

Please RSVP to ppgbuffalo@gmail.com asap.  Thank you to those who already signed-up.


Join the campaign for Fair Share Tax Reform!

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The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a statement the other day concerning the lack of funding for affordable housing.  The economic recession will hit low-income families and individuals who can barely afford the already high fair market rents hard and could put thousands of them out on the street.  This article also refocuses our attention on the root cause of homelessness: poverty.

February 5, 2009

For Immediate Release: February 4, 2009

For More Information: Sheila Crowley 540-907-2993 (cell); sheila@nlihc.org

Statement from Sheila Crowley, President, National Low Income Housing Coalition, on Senate passage of $15,000 homebuyer tax credit

“If the country can afford to subsidize over a million families no matter what their income to buy new houses, surely we can afford to prevent a huge increase in the number of people who lose their homes altogether and become homeless.”

This evening, the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment to the pending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that will give every homebuyer this year, no matter his or her income, a $15,000 tax credit. The cost is $18.50 billion. The amendment did not include an offset, so the cost is added to the total cost of the bill. The amendment passed by voice vote without a single Senator raising an objection.

Yet, the same Senate has not included any funding in the bill that will produce a single new unit of housing that is affordable to the poorest families in the country. The Senate bill does not capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund to build and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable to low wage workers, the unemployed, the disabled, and the elderly. Nor does the Senate bill provide funding for housing vouchers that would help low income families afford to rent existing housing in the market.

Both items have been sought by advocates for low income people to prevent a surge in homelessness due to the foreclosure crisis and the recession. The two items together would cost $13.60 billion, and provide 400,000-500,000 poor families with decent homes they could afford. Any increase in unemployment causes the poverty level to rise. One in ten people who are poor will lose their homes unless steps are taken to prevent them from becoming homeless. An unemployment rate of 9% is predicted to result in at least new 800,000 people, including children and seniors, becoming homeless adding the existing homeless population.

The bill does include $1.5 billion for emergency housing assistance for people facing homelessness, an important element to a homelessness prevention strategy. But permanent affordable homes are required to assure housing stability for the lowest income households.

Capitalizing the National Housing Trust Fund is also an economic stimulus; housing construction and remodeling are labor and material intensive, thus creating jobs, increasing the sales of building and home decorating goods, and generating new state and local tax revenue. The construction of each new multi-family rental unit produces 1.16 new jobs and every $100,000 spent on home remodeling produces 1.11 new jobs.

If the country can afford to subsidize over a million families no matter what their income to buy new houses, surely we can afford to prevent a huge increase in the number of people who lose their homes altogether and become homeless.(emphasis added)

I strongly urge the Congress to reexamine its spending plans in the Economic Recovery bill in light of this expensive tax cut and do more to help those who are hurt the most by the economic crisis. It is simple fairness.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. www.nlihc.org


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It should not be surprising that, in the currently NYS fiscal crisis, those who will be hardest hit are lower-income Americans, living paycheck to paycheck, and struggling to keep up with daily cost of living. What could help alleviate the burden is by making richer New Yorkers – those who make over $1 million per year – bear more of the burden for state income taxes.

Not only is it good sense, but just such a notion has widespread support by New York voters. See below


“By a 78 – 18 percent margin voters support raising the state income tax on
people who make more than $1 million a year. Even Republicans support this tax
hike 56 – 36 percent. On other budget questions:
Voters prefer 56 – 32 percent cutting services rather than raising taxes;
If they must raise taxes, voters prefer 58 – 32 percent raising the state
sales tax rather than the state income tax..”

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