Asset Building News Week - August 19, 2016

Highlights from this week's news stories
Blog Post
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Aug. 19, 2016

Featured Story: How Should We Tackle Homelessness?

There are a myriad of factors that could ultimately cause a household to become homeless. (A sudden drop in income, medical debt due to an emergency, mental illness, severe natural disasters, et cetera.) The weight given to these factors largely depends on whether one favors American individualism or the modern social contract. Is homelessness primarily a personal failure or a failure of the government? One News Week is too short to dig into such a question. (And our stance should be obvious.) So here’s a small selection of stories featuring agencies and groups attempting to resolve the issue without politicizing it.

Writing for CityLab, Eillie Anzilotti covers Albuquerque’s approach: connecting panhandlers to jobs. “[O]ne year ago, the New Mexico city’s government collaborated with St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, a local nonprofit homeless-services organization, to launch the There’s a Better Way van program with a radically simple mission: to provide real jobs to those sitting on the street, asking for work.” The van currently operates four days a week and provides six people each day with a full day of work at $9 an hour. Throughout the day workers also have access to information on the housing, health, and employment services available at St. Martin’s.

Boulder County, Colorado took their desire to provide wraparound services a bit farther. In 2009, the country merged its housing and human services agencies into one. The idea, writes Governing’s Mattie Quinn, was to acknowledge “the idea that it’s fruitless to address community health without also tying in things like food security, transportation access, rehabilitation services and employment.” Acknowledging the interconnectedness of social issues and public health has arguably made the agency more efficient and reduced administrative burden—a win-win for government.   

In the world of academia, Science Magazine’s David Shultz writes about a group of economists who studied the effects of unconditional cash transfers. “If someone is about to become homeless, giving them a single cash infusion, averaging about $1000, may be enough to keep them off the streets for at least 2 years,” writes Shultz. The program gave one-time cash transfers to individuals who were on the brink of homelessness and who could also prove they would have consistent income in the future. Those who received the cash infusions were 88 percent less likely to be homeless after three months. Scaling this experiment would prove difficult both financially and politically, but it’s nevertheless encouraging.

News Highlights: Entitlements, #FightFor15, and Public-private Partnerships

A Conservative Push for Paid Family Leave

Earlier this week, the American Action Forum released a report supporting the creation of a paid-leave benefit for workers making under $28,000 a year. What makes the report so special, writes the Atlantic’s Russell Berman, is that the plan is essentially an entitlement—something conservatives typically balk at. The program would be funded by taxes that both employees and employers would both pay into a government fund, though it’s unclear how the payments would be administered. Nevertheless, the report is a step in the right direction for many who see it as a bridge to potential bipartisan support for paid family leave.

Taking the Fight for $15 to the Old Confederacy

ThinkProgress’ Alan Pyke covered the first ever Fight for $15 convening in Richmond. The event ended with a march to the statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee, which serves as a powerful symbol for what the movement is up against in its fight for living wages and union rights. While the movement has since morphed overtime to include low wage workers and unions from a variety of sectors, “the energy pervading the march to Lee’s monument was palpably modern and unapologetically black,” says Pyke.

Uber and Lyft Want to Replace Public Buses

In a few cities across the country, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are replacing buses with the help of local public transportation agencies. In Pinellas Park, FL local authorities “stopped running two bus lines and started paying for a portion of Uber rides instead,” writes Joshua Brustein. Partnerships like this can actually save money in areas with low ridership, but an important question remains: is letting private companies manage aspects of a public good a good idea? The usefulness of public-private partnerships have been studied and argued for years, this is just the latest installment.

News in Brief: Robots, Forgiveness, Private Equity, and More

  • Refinancing is a step some take when their monthly student loan payments become too much, but what about happens to those who don’t qualify? The Boston Globe’s Dierdre Fernandes reports.
  • Former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and James Lockhart III write for the Hill on the 10 year anniversary of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and the work that still needs to be done to ensure all Americans have sufficient retirement savings.
  • Why don’t residents return after public housing is torn down despite being promised a place to live? Slate’s Dianna Douglas investigates.
  • “In the fourth episode of the United States of Debt, a Slate Academy, host Helaine Olen dives into the piles of bills surrounding America’s health care system.”
  • Following Massachusetts’s announcement that employers will be barred from inquiring about a prospective employee’s salary history, the New York Times asked several experts how they would reduce the gender pay gap.
  • The DoNotPay robot that helps people dispute parking tickets will soon provide free legal assistance to those facing homelessness reports Slate’s Katy Waldman.
  • Private equity strikes again! Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery report for the New York Times on the ways in which these firms push homeowners into foreclosure.
  • Palo Alto’s planning commissioner announces her resignation in an open letter explaining that despite her best efforts to effect change, the city just isn’t affordable. Slate’s Henry Grabar reports.
  • Slate’s Jordan Weissmann says forgiving all student debt isn’t as noble as we think because it would mostly benefit those who need it the least.
  • We’ve heard a lot about the wealth gap between white and black Americans, but does a similar gap exist amongst immigrants of color? The Atlantic’s Alexia Fernández Campbell says yes.
  • The New York Times Editorial Board issues an endorsement of California’s Secure Choice legislation.  


Welfare Reform Turns 20: Looking Back, Going Forward | Cato Institute | August 22, 2016

The 20th Anniversary of Welfare Reform | Progressive Policy Institute | August 22, 2016

Reducing Poverty and Increasing Opportunity: Envisioning the Next 20 Years | Urban Institute | September 13, 2016

Assets Learning Conference | CFED | September 28-30, 2016