Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In South Florida Federal Housing Support is Being Cut in One of the Nation’s Poorest Areas

In Other News, Mitt Romney Proposes to Drop Top Tax Rate for the Wealthiest Americans from 39.5% to 28%

One of the great surprises that the American people are going to have when or if Republicans (or even Democrats) start cutting the discretionary part of the Federal budget is what that will actually result in.  On an unscientific basis, the opinion of this Forum is that most people think the Federal Government employees tens of millions of bureaucrats who sit around and waste taxpayer monies.  The truth is the Federal government’s non defense discretionary spending largely consists of transfer payments to state and local governments and to non-profit organizations who do much of the work, and to profit making firms who supply goods and services.

Case in point is housing and low income assistance.  In South Florida we have this situation.

Four cities in Miami-Dade County are bearing some of the deepest cuts in the country in federal housing money designated for nonprofit groups that serve the poor, the elderly and the developmentally disabled. Several of the groups’ directors said they had no choice but to turn more poor people away, at a time when services are in greater demand. Layoffs are also likely, they said.

It is not clear why Miami-Dade has been hit hard, but here is the reason why somebody had to be hit hard.

The city has been fighting cuts for the last two years but stepped up its battle in January, when it was told that it would receive even less than it had expected. Congress has cut more than $1 billion from the program during that same time.

Yep, if $1 billion was going to be cut, somebody was going to suffer.  Here is a brief picture of that suffering.

“A 34 percent cut — that almost closes our doors,” said Lavern Scott, the executive director of Curley’s House, a food bank based in Miami that serves people in some of the poorest neighborhoods. “We help people who have less than $600 a month in income. How can you pay your rent and eat? How you pay your rent and afford your medication? It hurts us and every other agency.”

And what about children?

“We had 100 children in our day care center 10 years ago,” said Madelyn Rodriguez Llanes, program administrator for a center run by Centro Mater, a nonprofit group that tends to Miami’s poor in Little Havana. “Now we have 50. Soon it will have to drop to 10. The families that we see are people with real needs. They don’t have cars. They have already been cut from other services. They can’t pay for child care.”

The logic behind this is just about incomprehensible.  Conservatives want people on welfare and government support to get jobs.  To do that they need low cost or free day care.  Eliminate low cost and free day care and you make it impossible for those folks to work.

The Obama administration must take a large part of the blame here.  It is not clear how much clout they have with a stingy and miserly Congress but surely they have enough to prevent this sort of thing.  What are they thinking?

A lot of this is coming because the programs are “block grant” programs, where the Feds just give the states and local government some money and let them decide how it is spent.  In this way Congress and the President can say its not their fault if some agencies are decimated.  Block grants are a great way to avoid blame, which is why the devastating cuts coming in Medicaid will be implemented by converting it to a block grant program.

And remember Mitt Romney, he’s the guy who says he’s not worried about the very poor, because they are taken care of.  Mitt Romney, please beam yourself down from whatever point in outer space you reside and back to Earth.

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