Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Little Known HUD Program Could Help Lift Renters Out of Poverty

From Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Too often, particularly when it comes to federal programs to help lift up low-income families, the national dialogue focuses more on programs that don’t work and not enough on those that do, but eligible recipients may not know exist. A perfect example is HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), which helps families in subsidized housing build equity with income that otherwise might have to go exclusively to increased rent. Compass Working Capital is a leader in efforts to make the FSS better known and easier to use, a topic Compass CEO Markita Morris-Louis wrote about recently in a post for the Brookings Institution. Morris-Louis discussed how the FSS could be more widely used recently with Spotlight; the transcript of that conversation, here, has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Top Poverty and Opportunity Stories of 2022

From Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

As the nation slowly continued to navigate its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 brought many hopeful signs for low-income Americans looking for pathways into opportunity. Pandemic relief programs — particularly the expanded Child Tax Credit — reduced poverty rates dramatically in 2021, the Census Bureau found. The poverty rate fell to 7.8 percent, down from 9.2 percent the previous year, and the share of children in poverty hit a record low of 5.2 percent, down 4.5 percentage points from 2020.

But as 2023 approaches, many of those aid programs have expired and a debate looms for the new Congress on which, if any, to extend. American saw further evidence in 2022 that policy choices can dramatically reduce poverty — but those choices require difficult political choices and bipartisan compromise, particularly with the advent of another era of divided government.

Spotlight hopes to serve as a safe and constructive space for these crucial debates in coming months, whether they focus on renewing the expanded Child Tax Credit, federal paid leave, the affordable childcare crisis, or the devastating impact of the pandemic on the nation’s young people, particularly those already facing economic and familial challenges.

For now, we offer a round-up of 5 stories key stories from the year that is coming to an end.


Thursday, December 1, 2022

More people in Pa., N.J. go hungry as inflation and federal cuts take a toll

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

Hunger is increasing in the region and much of the rest of the country as people experience a double hit from inflation as well as cuts to federal aid programs, poverty experts say. Read the whole story here

Friday, October 28, 2022

A Possible Bipartisan Compromise on the Extended Child Tax Credit?

From Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Supporters of the expanded Child Tax Credit, which expired earlier this year when Senate Democrats failed to reach agreement, continue to hope for a bipartisan path to extension. Zach Moller, director of the Economic Program at Third Way, recently raised a possible deal: a bill that combines a CTC extension with changes to research and development tax deductibility that Republicans are concerned about. Moller spoke with Spotlight recently; the transcript of the conversation, below, has been lightly edited for length and clarity

Thursday, October 20, 2022

TANF Scandal Keeps Growing in Mississippi

From Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Former NFL quarterback and Mississippi native Brett Favre has been in the headlines in recent months, but not for anything related to his football career. He’s one of three dozen people or companies being sued by the Mississippi Department of Human Services in Mississippi’s largest-ever public corruption case, involving the misspending of tens of millions of dollars in TANF money that was intended to help low-income residents in one of the nation’s poorest states. Favre, who faces no criminal charges, said recently he has been treated unfairly in coverage of the scandal, which has ties to former governor Phil Bryant and revolves around a volleyball arena Favre hoped to build at the University of Southern Mississippi—his alma mater and the college where his daughter was playing the sport. Mississippi nonprofit newsrooms—Mississippi Today and the Mississippi Free Press among them—have led that coverage, and Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe has led the pack. Wolfe spoke to Spotlight about the scandal recently; the transcript here has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

New Index Measures Transportation Insecurity

From Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

The role of transportation is crucial  to holding a job, grocery shopping, and getting to school, child care, social services, and other activities. Transportation insecurity — the experience of being unable to move from place to place in a safe or timely manner — has important consequences for people’s ability to connect to opportunity and flourish. University of Michigan researchers have developed the first validated measure of transportation security that offers insights into who experiences transportation insecurity and enables researchers and practitioners to determine which interventions can improve this condition. Spotlight spoke recently with two members of the research team: Alix Gould-Werth, director of Family Economic Security Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth; and Alexandra Murphy, assistant professor of Sociology, University of Michigan. The transcript here, has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Diaper Dilemma: Low-Income Families Face High Costs And Limited Supplies Of An Essential Good

From The Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty 

Diaper Scarcity For Low-Income Families

Diapers are a critical element of care for infants and young children, and a substantial expense for many parents. The challenges are particularly acute for households facing economic hardship.

Read the article here