Census Local Data: Poverty Rises Sharply in Most Areas of Pennsylvania

A blog post by Michael Wood, originally published at Third and State.

Poverty has risen sharply in most areas of Pennsylvania, according to new data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The report highlights the widespread impact of the recession and the need for policymakers to protect struggling families and invest in building a stronger economy.

Overall poverty in Pennsylvania rose by a statistically significant margin, going from 11.6% in 2007 to 13.4% in 2010. Most Pennsylvania metro areas also saw statistically significant increases in poverty from 2007 to 2010.

The number of Pennsylvanians living in deep poverty — the share of the population with incomes below half the poverty line — rose to 5.9% (726,102 people) in 2010. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, Pennsylvania was one of 40 states to see a statistically significant rise in deep poverty.

Deep Poverty Rose in 40 States Between 2007 and 2010

In urban areas of Pennsylvania, poverty rose to 14.7% in 2010 with 1,360,202 urban residents currently living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. That is up from 12.7% in 2007, before the recession started. The picture is similarly bleak in rural Pennsylvania where 9.5% of residents (287,982 people) lived in poverty in 2010, up from 8.1% in 2007.

Census Data: For Record Number of Americans, Recession Is Far From Over

Poverty has been rising for much of the last decade
View more charts
from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, interpreting the Census data

National poverty rate hit 15.1% last year, the highest level since 1993

As the recession took its toll last year, more Americans fell into poverty, saw their incomes decline and joined the ranks of the uninsured, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released the results of its annual Current Population Survey today in a new report — the first to include a full year of data from the Great Recession.

During 2010, the poverty rate increased to 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, with a record-breaking 46.2 million American adults and children living in poverty. Median household income also declined, and the number of individuals without health insurance increased again, now approaching 50 million.

Public programs continued to play an important role in blunting the full force of the economic downturn. An estimated 3.2 million Americans were kept out of poverty through unemployment insurance coverage, while public health programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) helped to fill the gap as employment-based coverage declined once again.

The Middle Class ‘Under Attack’

A blog post from Mark Price, originally published on Third and State.

At the Keystone Research Center, we have been chronicling for years the forces that are putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on middle-class Pennsylvanians.

Last week, we released a new report in partnership with the national policy center Demos that takes the temperature of the state's middle class in the wake of the Great Recession. I'm sorry to say, once again, the patient is not well.

The state's annual unemployment rate is the highest it has been in nearly three decades and the cost of going to college is on the rise.

According to the report, times are particularly tough for Pennsylvania's young people, with state budget cuts to 18% of public university funding and a 7.5% tuition hike in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. Pennsylvania's young people already bear the seventh highest rate of student debt in the nation — at approximately $28,000 on average.

Third and State This Week: Insurance Exchanges, Marcellus Drilling Impact Fee and Unemployment Benefits

This week, we blogged about a state legislative hearing on structuring insurance exchanges, 11 things to hate about the state Senate drilling impact fee bill, the fine print on a compromise reached to continue federal extended unemployment benefits to 45,000 Pennsylvanians, and more.


Cheri Honkala for Sheriff announcement - Thursday at 11 AM

From the Green Party of Philadelphia, via Hugh Giordano:

Cheri Honkala for Sheriff

Join Us on Thursday, February 17, 10:00 am

Cheri Honkala, www.cherihonkala.com, will announce her run for the
Green Party nomination as Sheriff of Philadelphia .

718 Market St, Home of Casino Free Philly, 10:00 am


Cheri Honkala for Sheriff
Keeping Families In Their Homes

Veteran Philadelphia Activist for the Poor to Run for Sheriff on No Evictions Platform

Cheri Honkala Says Appealing to the Banks to Restructure Loans for Families Facing Foreclosure Did Not Work So She Will Run for Sheriff and Refuse to Evict Families.
If Elected, Honkala Would Suspend Sheriff Sales of Properties Indefinitely.

Trash Fee = Flat is Whack

On March 17, we joined many concerned citizens and groups to comment in council on the proposal to add a "soda tax" and more importantly a flat fee for trash collection.

Since the soda tax really isn't the classic excise tax, we gave it short shrift. It'll bring in some revenue, that's about it.

But the regressivity of the flat fee for trash collection really needs to be re-examined. after a brief flurry of news and noise, attention has drifted, so I wanted to bring it back and keep in peoples' minds.

The impact on poorer areas is truly astonishing. The tables attached to our testimony makes that clear. In many neighborhoods, the flat trash fee far exceeds the total property tax an average house pays, and when the city portion of the property tax is isolated the numbers go off the charts bad.

Media and Democracy? Senator Franken Warns of Dangers in Comcast/NBC Universal Merger, Details Company's Dishonesty

On Thursday February 4, the Senate held hearings on the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. During the hearings Senator Al Franken warned that we should be nervous about the companies that own our media and we should be particularly nervous when one company owns both the means to produce programs and the pipes that deliver those same programs. Senator Franken later went on to detail his dealings with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts on the merger, depicting either extreme dishonesty or incompetence.

In a Youtube video of the senate hearing Franken explains:


Eighty-seven Souls: Reflections on Tough Times and Tight Choices in 2009

On Monday people across the city remembered the eight-seven souls that died in this last year either living on the streets or in shelters. Eighty-seven people! This is a dramatic rise from the previous year and it is shameful. It is shameful of the Nutter administration, which has closed our homeless cafes, which are the last refuge for those of us without homes in times of unbearable bone-chilling weather. It is shameful of the federal government, which in a time of economic crisis chooses to bail out banks and looks the other way when it comes to dire LIFE AND DEATH services for people that are struggling to survive. And most of all, it is a shame on our free market system, which allows companies like AIG to prosper, giving away absurd amounts of money in bonuses--money that would make sizable dents in the deficit this city is trying to bridge. It is a shame on an economic system that is responsible for epic failures, yet still fights with armies of suited lobbyists--against health care reform and for a deregulated banking system--so the precious few can accumulate dollar upon dollar, while more and more of us are struggling to survive, and many of us are not surviving at all.

Demand a Screening of the "End of Poverty?" in Philadelphia

The "End of Poverty?" is a documentary years in the making. Produced by Cinema Libre Studios, this has been called "An Inconvenient Truth" on the reality of global - and local - poverty. Philadelphians needs to see this film, produced by and featuring an array of progressive thinkers, writers and activists from all over the globe.

To quote from the web page for the film:

Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates The End of Poverty?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today's financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet's population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line.

Our Chance to Build a City Where Everyone has Internet Access

From The Daily News
The Internet for Everyone
By Todd Wolfson of Media Mobilizing Project and Hannah Sassaman of the Digital Justice Coalition

PHILADELPHIA is lining up for a race with a big prize - tens of millions in stimulus money to expand Internet access. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has authorized $7.2 billion for broadband programs, with everything from tricking out community centers with high-speed lines to mapping broadband availability already on the table as fundable programs.

The Daily News looks at the Mayor's Office of Community Services

Ben Waxman has an article today about the Mayor's Office of Community Services that I would encourage everyone to check out.

PRESIDENT LYNDON Johnson's notion of a "Great Society" was embodied by his 1964 speech that declared the "War on Poverty."

That war was abandoned long ago, but a legacy lives on in City Hall in the Mayor's Office of Community Services (MOCS).

MOCS is expecting a huge influx of new money into its $12 million budget, set to come from President Obama's recovery act. It could receive up to $6 million for local agencies charged with fighting poverty.

But, according to an "It's Our Money" analysis, more than $1 million of the agency's current budget is being spent on salaries in other departments. And very little data is being collected to ensure that those being served by MOCS-financed programs are actually in poverty.

MOCS is supposed to be the city's primary anti-poverty agency. It's mostly funded through a program called the Community Services Block Grant.

The MOCS is in theory supposed to be the poverty fighting agency of the the Mayor' office. But it seems to be somewhat of a dud. While good people work there and everything, the article points out that much of money that should go to the office is is simply funneled elsewhere, to places such as the Rec Department. And, because it often times simply funds departmental salaries, the impact of office is often times unclear. (And of course, the reality is that funding someone at the Rec Department in many neighborhoods in Philly means you are serving an overwhelming majority of poor people.)

I don't particularly know what goes on in City Hall, but, when I talk to people who have been inside the City, including people from that office specifically, the MOCS is frequently brought up as one of the last patronage-type offices that the Mayor controls. The article hints at that here:

Until last year, federal block grant dollars were being used to partially fund the Mayor's Action Center, which was responsible for answering information requests about city government and services. State officials responsible for oversight raised concerns because the majority of people being served by the Mayor's Action Center were not poor.

"It was our impression that the last administration was using funds to essentially answer phones for people who were complaining about city government," said Ken Klothen, who served as deputy secretary for community affairs at the Department of Community Economic Development before resigning in May. "We didn't think that all of that activity was sufficiently related to Community Services Block Grant goals. We viewed it as casting too broad a net."

I am going to guess that the people on the other end of the line were probably not your every day, unconnected people. It is good to see that that piece of the office appears to have ended. And the Mayor has also acknowledged that the office isn't really doing what it is supposed to do. That is a good start. But after 1.5 years in office, it is time to get past talk, and see real, concentrated reforms.

America’s Youngest Outcasts

People's Emergency Center had a forum yesterday (see attached) on homeless youth in Philly and Jennifer Lin, who is one of the only reporters covering this topic over the last couple of years, did a write up.

It doesn't sound like there is much 'news' here. It is the same story for the hundreds of kids in city shelters and thousands who are homeless everyday.

As an outreach worker seeing homeless children, and hearing stories of Office of Supportive Housing case workers suggesting parents give up their children in order to get shelter, was definitely the hardest part of the job.

Community Journalism in Times of Economic Crisis

MMP Newsletter

Media Mobilizing Project is beginning the initiative "Community Journalism in Times of Economic Crisis." The initiative is a response to both the economic crisis, which is hitting Philadelphians hard, and the growing problems with the for-profit journalism model, which is making it difficult for local newspapers to cover stories about the struggles of everyday Philadelphians. The goal of this project is to report on and collect the real stories of Philadelphia and beyond on MMP's community blog, so we can begin to get a picture of the economic crisis from the ground up. Here is a copy of our latest newsletter: The Human Right to Healthcare: Northeastern Hospital is Groundzero . SIGN UP to receive future newsletters!

Witnesses to Hunger

This is pretty incredible:

In the tight rowhouse streets of North Philadelphia, people share walls and worries.

Few outsiders see, know or feel the cycle of want and chaos that a week of privation creates.

To show what life north of Spring Garden Street looks like to some of the people who live there, Mariana Chilton, a professor and anthropologist at Drexel University's School of Public Health, gave digital cameras to 40 women.

Out of a simple idea, complex images and narratives emerge. An exhibit of the photos, called Witnesses to Hunger, will open to the public Dec. 11 at Drexel's Bossone Center.

Guess which library branches they want to close?

I'm learning now that of the 11 branches they want to close, about half of them are in economically depressed parts of the city. They include:

Durham, Eastwick, Fishtown, Fumo, Haddington, Holmesburg, Kingsessing, Logan, Ogontz, Queen Memorial, and Wadsworth

I'm hearing this from a librarian who says that even though this information probably isn't supposed to be public yet -- she wants the city to know what these budget cuts are doing to their communities.

Philadelphia has spent a lot of money to attract people like my unnamed librarian friend to this city. She came here to study at one of the best Library Science schools in the nation -- Drexel -- and stayed for years after earning her degree, waiting for a position in one of the cities' libraries.

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