As highlighted in my previous post, accurately measuring poverty is difficult enough, but another challenge is the timeliness of the data. Even when we have good numbers there is usually a significant lag time between when residents were surveyed and when the final data are released. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty has been doing a great job of compiling data from around the country on how the housing and economic crisis is growing. They have a Fact Sheet and even a Wiki that you can add to with information from your city or community. A few of the examples that caught my eye are:
* In Denver, nearly 30% of the homeless are newly homeless.
* Massachusetts reports that number of families living in shelters has risen by 33% in the past year.
* The Iowa City school district (where I attended, by the way) is reporting a sharp increase in the number of homeless students living in the district. There were 354 homeless students in the 2007-2008 school year, up from 279 in 2006-2007, and from 234 the year before that.
NLCHP is also tracking the implications of the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the poor. As outlined below – and at http://www.nlchp.org/news.cfm?id=83 – there are some significant resources in the bill to help the most vulnerable as part of the recovery. The key now, as with the stimulus bill over all, will be spending those resources wisely and being able to show that they led to economic recovery.
* $1.5 billion to the HUD Emergency Shelter Grant Program
* $100 million to the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Program
* Food stamp benefits will increase by approximately 13%. This increase will phase out over time.
* $100 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services, including Meals on Wheels
* $150 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to purchase commodities for food banks
* $70 million for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program
* Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries and veterans receiving disability benefits or pensions from the VA will receive a one-time payment of $250.
* Increases unemployment benefits by $25 per week
* Continues the extended unemployment benefits program until December 2009 (the program was due to expire in March 2009). The extended unemployment benefits program provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits.
Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit
* Provides additional tax credit to families with three or more children and decreases the marriage penalty for the tax credit
* Decreases the annual income required to claim the Child Tax Credit from $8,000 to $3,000
Assistance to Persons Fleeing Domestic Violence
* $50 million to the transitional housing program authorized by the Violence Against Women Act to assist individuals and families fleeing from domestic violence