Sequestration to Hurt Struggling US Families, Seniors, those with Disabilities and more (Pics/VIDEO) -

The Obama administration which came out running during election times as being supportive of the less fortunate, actually shows his real colours when his chips are put on the table.

Major problems loom all across the United States of America, not the least of which is with regards to citizens being forced and even kept in rough times.

There was once a time not so distant when communities would come together to help others without having to be directed to do so under the control of org's and/or those of profit/gain/control.

Even with cuts and greed, United States of America citizens can get thru any rough times if they fully adopt and go back to a one simple way of life the United States of America used to have: Being Neighbors!

Now a days, even those who live under the mystique they are doing right unto their fellow human actually don't do what is needed to those in need. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism, or just social/economic times which have them confused themselves, but what ever the reason, it is just a reason to not be about it when actually "Helping" those who are real need.

The problem isn't getting better, and even with all of the so called "Help" organizations, the numbers of those in "real need" continues to increase.

The system does however seem to overlook those who don't fall into any one of the categories of mental health issues, drug and/or alcohol addictions and/or being in the penal system. The people who aren't into one of the groups that are designed to get org's paid have to just deal with being "Houseless" are almost left out in the cold - literally.

This isn't to take notice away from the thousands who are scamming the system, and it seems that they are almost always given precedence over others.

"The Houseless"


Story related to the struggling in the United States of America on All Things Considered
Roger Bottomley of Fairfax, Va., has been homeless for 10 years. He expected to get a housing voucher, but then his appointment with the local housing authority was canceled because of sequestration. He keeps his belongings in a locker at a homeless day center.   Pam Fessler/NPR

Congress decided last week to ease the effects of the across-the-board federal spending cuts on travelers upset over airport delays. But low-income Americans who rely on government housing aid are still feeling the pain.

Housing authorities across the country have all but stopped issuing rent vouchers as they try to deal with the cuts known as sequestration. Many newly issued vouchers have been rescinded, leaving some people homeless or doubled up with family and friends.

And the cuts come at a time when there's a severe shortage of affordable housing across the country.

"Homeless Again"

Melissa Rothkugel, 28, had waited seven years for a housing voucher to help cover her rent in Connecticut. Last year, she lost her job, became homeless and got pregnant. So you can imagine how happy she was in February when she got a letter telling her she had finally been approved for aid.

"I actually broke down and cried," she recalls. "Because, I mean, when they issued me the voucher, I thought everything was going to start getting better and looking up."

She filled out the paperwork, attended orientation in Hartford and started to look for an apartment. But within days she was rushed to the hospital to give birth to a baby daughter. A week later, she got another letter that made her cry.

"It said, due to the budget cuts, that they were revoking my voucher," she says. "So I was back to square one in being homeless again."

Now, she, her baby and her boyfriend are living in her brother's basement.

Rothkugel's voucher was one of 88 rescinded by the city of Hartford in response to federal spending cuts.

"No Recourse"

Hartford isn't alone. In Fort Worth, Texas, 99 vouchers were canceled for families that hadn't yet signed leases. In Minnesota, more than 160 vouchers have been put on hold.

In Fairfax, Va., Roger Bottomley thought a voucher was within reach after 10 years of homelessness, when he was scheduled for an interview this month with the local housing authority. Then it was canceled.

"They didn't have the money for it, the way I understand it," he says.

So he's still living on the street.

"I stayed at the bus stop last night," he says. "It wasn't too cold out."

Across the country, housing authorities say their hands are tied. They have to cut about $2 billion this year in public housing and voucher programs that subsidize rents for the poorest Americans. It's part of the larger stalemate in Washington over how to deal with the budget.

"There is no recourse," says Alex Sanchez, executive director of the housing authority in Santa Clara County, Calif. "We're simply passing on what the Congress decided."
The Santa Clara County housing authority has 25,000 people on its waiting list. But there will be no new vouchers this year. The agency has also asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for permission to raise the amount that tenants already in the program will have to pay. Sanchez says it's a hardship on his clients — who are mostly elderly and disabled — but he hopes it will do the trick.

"The very last step we want to take is to actually take people off the program," he says. "But if the cuts continue, I don't believe there will be any other alternative."

"Inflicting Pain"

Sanchez says he thinks Congress should reverse the sequester. But it doesn't look promising.
President Obama has called the sequester "dumb." But he said at a news conference Tuesday that the kind of action lawmakers took last week — to prevent the furloughing of air-traffic controllers — is too shortsighted.

"They should be thinking about what's going to happen five years from now, 10 years from now or 15 years from now," he said. "The only way to do that is for them to engage with me on coming up with a broader deal."

But the president's broader deal would include more tax revenue, something Republicans vehemently oppose. They want deeper spending cuts instead. In the GOP radio address this past weekend, Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster blamed the sequester mess squarely on the president.

"There are some in the Obama administration who thought inflicting pain on the public would give the president more leverage to avoid making necessary spending cuts and to impose more tax hikes on the American people," he said.

But to people like Rothkugel in Connecticut and Bottomley in Virginia, this is all business as usual. They don't expect to get help anytime soon.

Link to a transcript of an audio portion on All Things Considered
addressing the "Houseless" and poverty situation in the United States of America.


Greg Kaufmann: After Sequestration, Where Will Poor Families Sleep?

Under the axe of sequestration, 140,000 families are set to lose housing assistance, mainly through cuts to Section 8 vouchers. "We're moving in the wrong direction from a collective perspective," The Nation's Greg Kaufmann says. "Half of the recipients are people with disabilities or seniors, the other half are families with children"—and, as is, only one in four families who are eligible for vouchers actually receive them. Kaufmann joins The Melissa Harris-Perry Show to discuss the impending crisis and what the big banks have to do with it.
James Cersonsky

And via

A homeless man in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)
Sequestration can seem a little vague, abstract, difficult to wrap your head around.

But here’s what it means when it comes to housing: up to 140,000 fewer low-income families receiving housing vouchers, more children exposed to lead paint, higher rent for people who can’t afford it and a rise in homelessness.

These are among the human costs of sequestration noted in a new paper by Doug Rice, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who has worked on housing policy for ten years.

“These kinds of cuts are really unprecedented,” Rice told me. “The Section 8 voucher program has been around for nearly 40 years—it was created during the Nixon Administration and has had strong, bipartisan support for its entire history. Part of that support has consisted of Congress providing adequate money to ensure that the vouchers currently used by families are renewed from year to year.”

But for just the third time in 39 years, Congress will not fund local housing agencies so that they can renew all current vouchers. A $938 million cut in the voucher program translates to a 6 percent shortfall below what is needed to maintain assistance to the same number of families in 2013 as last year.

“Here we are in 2013 looking at severe cuts in the number of families that receive assistance, even at a time when the number of families in need has been rising sharply,” said Rice.

Indeed, as the report notes, there are currently “waiting lists for vouchers in almost every community,” and only 1 in 4 eligible households receives a voucher or some other form of federal rental assistance. Half of the current households in the voucher program include seniors or people with disabilities, and the rest are mostly families with children. The average household income is just $12,500—well below the poverty line of about $18,000 for a family of three. 

Currently, Rice writes, about 1.5 million Americans spend some time in emergency or temporary shelters every year. Since 2007, the number of families with children living in shelters and other emergency housing has increased by approximately 32 percent.

This bleak picture is about to get worse. 

While 140,000 fewer low-income families will receive vouchers by early 2014—increasing the risk of homelessness for many families already deemed at-risk—there will simultaneously be cuts in federal funding that enables communities to assist homeless people. Emergency Solutions Grants (ESGs) are used by local communities for emergency shelters, temporary rental assistance and other services that help families avoid homelessness; these grants face up to a 34 percent cut.

“Communities will be forced to either close down shelters or cut back efforts to prevent homelessness or re-house homeless families,” writes Rice.

At the same time, Continuum of Care (CoC) grants targeting “chronic homelessness” prevention—assisting homeless individuals with mental or physical disabilities who live on the streets for extended periods—will likely be reduced by at least $180 million. (More if HUD decides to reallocate a greater proportion of these funds towards ESGs.)

“There has been a 10-year effort at the federal level to reduce chronic homelessness among individuals with significant mental health or other kinds of disabilities,” said Rice. “It is a lot cheaper to help them afford stable housing with the services they need than to allow them to languish on the streets, which costs the government more money in health care costs, trips to emergency rooms—not to mention jail.”

Some of the effects of sequestration aren’t coming down the pike—they are already here. 

Local agencies are already “shelving” vouchers, which means that they aren’t reissuing them to families on the waiting lists when other families leave the program. Agencies are withdrawing vouchers from families who recently received them but are still searching for an apartment. They are alerting current families that their assistance may be terminated later this year. They are considering raising rents on current tenants (which requires permission from the Department of Housing and Urban Development), charging fees for parking and other services or requiring tenants to pay more for utilities. The report notes that these policies “are likely to steer families into neighborhoods with more crime, lower-performing schools, and less access to jobs.”

Sequestration will also result in housing agencies receiving “only about 70 percent of the administrative funds for which they are eligible this year,” according to the report. That means less ability to perform property inspections and address “potentially serious problems” in apartments.

Due to cuts in other HUD programs, there will be reduced efforts to minimize children’s exposure to lead in older units, and decreased production of new affordable housing for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Further, local agencies will receive only about half of the monies needed to cover new repairs and renovations this year—never mind the $26 billion backlog of capital repairs in public housing developments.

“When agencies don’t receive enough monies to operate and maintain their properties, they delay and forgo maintenance and basic repairs, and these kinds of delays can increase costs in the long-term by causing more costly structural damage,” said Rice.

At best, it means deteriorating living conditions for too many families. At worst, it means more affordable units lost to disrepair. The report notes that more than 260,000 public housing units have been demolished or removed from stock since the mid-1990s. 

Not to be lost in all of this is the effect these policies have on children over the long-term. 

“Children who experience repeated or extended periods of homelessness—especially when they are very young or in teenage years—tend to do much less well at school, [their] graduation rates are lower, and they are more likely to have certain health problems,” said Rice. “They are much less likely to be productive economically if they live in deep poverty as young kids, and part of this is a housing situation. For kids that do well in school, stable housing in a decent, safe home is a pretty important component.”

In a country where 82 percent of voters want Congress and the White House to deliver a plan to cut child poverty in half within 10 years, this is clearly not the direction in which we want to be moving.

“What we should be looking at is reducing homelessness and reducing the number of low-income families who have what HUD calls ‘worst case housing needs’—which are all households with very low incomes, paying housing costs that exceed half of their income, or they live in substandard housing,” said Rice.

Rice has done a real service with this report. The question is the same one that seems to come up again and again when it comes to issues that are important to low-income people—is anyone listening, and does anyone give a damn?



TODAY at 12:15, livestreamed: “The New (Suburban) Homeless: How Foreclosures and the Great Recession Have Impacted American Families,” New American Foundation. American Prospect senior writer Monica Potts will discuss her new piece, “The Weeklies,” about suburban homelessness outside of Denver. Janis Bowdler, economic policy director of the National Council of La Raza, will participate as well. #TheWeeklies

Tuesday, April 9: NC Women’s Advocacy Day, at the state legislature in Raleigh, with NC Women United (NCWU), a coalition of organizations and individuals working to achieve the full political, social and economic equality of all women. NCWU will bring activists from across the state to urge their legislators to support issues related to the advancement of women and families, including economic self-sufficiency, access to health care, civic participation and ending violence against women. NCWU is particularly interested in maintaining the EITC and work supports for struggling families in North Carolina. Register for Advocacy Day here.

Wednesday, April 10: LIHEAP Action Day, US Congress. Supporters of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program from across the country will meet with members of Congress to urge them to restore funding for the federal energy assistance program. You can register here. If you can’t attend, show your support on April 10 by posting the following message on your Facebook status and in messages to your representatives: “The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps millions of Americans keep their lights on and their homes livable in winter and summer. Congress, please restore funding for LIHEAP to at least $4.7 billion for FY 2014.” You can also tweet using #LIHEAPAction.

The Sequester and Seniors

Cuts to programs like home-delivered meals, senior housing and energy assistance are starting to impact seniors in need. The National Council on Aging wants to hear what’s happening in your community, and take those accounts to legislators. Share your story here

Clips on Disability

There were many inaccuracies and distortions about federal disability programs in a recent series on NPR, “Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America.” Below are some of the smart responses to it. You can hear more good commentary on the subject tonight at 8 PM on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Disability is going to continue to come under attack. I’ll definitely be doing my best to stay on top of this, and I would also recommend that you follow the work of Rebecca Vallas (Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities), Shawn Fremstad (CEPR) and Kathy Ruffing (CBPP).

‘Unfit’ for NPR—Let’s Get the Facts Straight on Disability,” Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities

The State of Disability,” Kathy Ruffing

Clips and other resources (compiled with James Cersonsky)

Setting fair wages in fast food,” All In with Chris Hayes [VIDEO]

Sequester Impact: March 27-April 3rd,” Coalition on Human Needs

Community fights ruin from foreclosures,” Tom Foreman/CNN [VIDEO] 

Focus, Institute for Research on Poverty

Re: Investing in Innovation Fund Priorities,” letter to the U.S. Department of Education

Voices of Hunger and Hope: Baltimore Witness to Hunger,” Maryland Hunger Solutions 

HUD Enforcement of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Requirement,” Poverty & Race Research Action Council 

Carry On, Wayward Sons,” John Schmitt 

Minimum Wage: Not Just for the Poor,” Robin Templeton

Studies/Briefs (summaries written by James Cersonsky)

A Real Fix: A Gun-Free to School Safety,” Advancement Project. Not only does increased police presence in schools have a consistent track record of making students less safe, it also draws resources from more holistic approaches that have been shown to benefit students—especially low-income students of color. This brief proposes the creation of school safety plans by teams comprising a range of school stakeholders, including parents and students. The plans should focus on three components: crisis prevention—through restorative justice practices, conflict resolution programs, mental health resources and school-family communication; school security measures involving all members of the school community; and school crisis plans in preparation for emergency.

Scarring Effects: Demographics of the Long-Term Unemployed and the Danger of Ignoring the Jobs Deficit,” National Employment Law Project. The US labor force counts 27 million unemployed or underemployed workers, and 40 percent of jobless workers have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. This report exposes the demographics of the crisis. Those suffering the greatest are the oldest: more than half of unemployed workers at least 45 years old have been out for longer than 27 weeks. Public sector cuts have come down particularly hard on women and people of color. Black workers, for example, account for twenty percent of state and local job losses; Latino youth account for 30 percent of enrollment in federal job training programs, which have also been hit heavily. For workers across the board, the recovery has been a regressive one: low-wage job growth has been 2.8 times greater than mid- and high-wage job growth.

Hard Choices: Navigating the Economic Shock of Unemployment,” The Pew Charitable Trusts. Drawing on a mix of quantitative and qualitative data, this report breaks down the influence of unemployment on short-term economic stability—and long-term mobility and wealth. Families that experienced unemployment between 1999 and 2009 were 1.3 times more likely to lose wealth during that decade than other families (even when controlling for a variety of factors). When hit with unemployment, families tap into a variety of resources—first, assets like personal savings and home equity. But if those resources are lacking, they use monies saved for their children’s education, high-interest loans, even their own retirement funds. The report proposes a slate of remedies, including low-cost loan options for families in times of need, stronger unemployment insurance and revised tax-incentive structures to encourage emergency saving.

Vital Statistics

US poverty (less than $17,916 for a family of three): 46.2 million people, 15.1 percent.

Children in poverty: 16.1 million, 22 percent of all children, including 39 percent of African-American children and 34 percent of Latino children. Poorest age group in country.

Deep poverty (less than $11,510 for a family of four): 20.4 million people, 1 in 15 Americans, including more than 15 million women and children.

People who would have been in poverty if not for Social Security, 2011: 67.6 million (program kept 21.4 million people out of poverty).

People in the US experiencing poverty by age 65: Roughly half.

Gender gap, 2011: Women 34 percent more likely to be poor than men.

Gender gap, 2010: Women 29 percent more likely to be poor than men.

Twice the poverty level (less than $46,042 for a family of four): 106 million people, more than 1 in 3 Americans.

Jobs in the US paying less than $34,000 a year: 50 percent.

Jobs in the US paying below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000 annually: 25 percent.

Poverty-level wages, 2011: 28 percent of workers.

Low-income families that were working in 2011: More than 70 percent.

Families receiving cash assistance, 1996: 68 for every 100 families living in poverty.

Families receiving cash assistance, 2010: 27 for every 100 families living in poverty.

Impact of public policy, 2010: without government assistance, poverty would have been twice as high—nearly 30 percent of population.

Percentage of entitlement benefits going to elderly, disabled, or working households: over 90 percent.

Food stamp recipients with no other cash income: 6.5 million people.

Children living on streets or in homeless shelters, US: 1.6 million, 42 percent under age six.

Number of homeless children in US public schools: 1,065,794.

Annual cost of child poverty nationwide: $550 billion.

Quote of the Week

“Over the past few decades, politicians have made an art form out of pledging to get tough with welfare recipients. These days, hardly a week goes by without a new call to impose ‘real consequences’ on aid recipients if they don’t shape up, accept personal responsibility and change their behavior. But here’s what you should know: Social policies that focus on penalties inflict real hardships on poor families but rarely produce the promised results.”
—Joe Soss, on Tennessee bill which would cut low-income parents’ cash assistance if their children falter in school.

James Cersonsky wrote the “Studies/Briefs” and co-wrote the “Clips and other resources” sections in this blog.

This Week in Poverty posts here on Friday mornings, and again on Sundays at Moyers & Company. You can e-mail me at and follow me on Twitter.

Lest we not forget!

15th St. and M St. in DC, "The Houseless" at