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Low income blacks biggest victims of GOP budget cuts…

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( Yesterday, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the self-described “Caucus of House Conservatives,” released its a blueprint for cutting federal spending by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Among the items on the chopping block are the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (a.k.a. NeighborWorks America) and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), two agencies that provide vital services for low-income communities and communities of color.

NeighborWorks America is one of the nation’s leading networks designed to help underserved populations live in affordable homes and build strong communities that are safe and sustainable. African-Americans were disproportionately harmed by the mortgage crisis, and have lost of approximately $194 billion in wealth from the collateral damages associated with the high incidence of foreclosures in black communities.

As millions of homeowners struggle to keep their homes or restructure loans that are at risk of going into default, NeighborWorks America has been there to provide training and technical assistance. In 2009, the agency helped more than a million low- and moderate-income people through home purchasing and improvement efforts, foreclosure mitigation services, and loan scam prevention campaigns. Eliminating this service now, as individuals continue to feel the impact of the recession, could quicken the pace at which people are losing their homes, and thereby contribute to a racial wealth gap that has widened significantly since 2007.

The LSC is charged to “promote equal access to justice in our Nation and to provide high quality civil legal assistance to low-income persons.” As the “single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation,” LSC distributes more that 95 percent of its $420 million budget to 136 legal aid programs around the country. If successful, the RSC proposal would cut legal services to approximately 54 million people living at or below the poverty line, of which a disproportionately high percentage are African-American and women.

According to the National Poverty Center, 25.8 percent of African Americans and 25.3 percent of Latinos are poor — with the highest rates of poverty being among families headed by single women in these groups — compared with 9.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 12.5 percent of Asians who occupy such socioeconomic status. Without LSC, poor communities would lose much of their free legal counseling, a threat which could lead to potentially devastating effects on African-Americans, given the significant disparities with which they are subject to increased contact with law enforcement and the disproportionate rates at which violence and victimization require legal counseling and intervention.

The RSC, however, was not the only agency to offer an economic security strategy yesterday. The Corporation For Enterprise Development (CFED) released Building Economic Security in America’s Cities, which presented an emerging set of financial empowerment strategies that include several recommendations designed to improve access for residents throughout city neighborhoods to quality financial information, products and services that can help reduce reliance on public resources and protect against loss of income and assets. While their recommendations are important and could be very impactful for African-Americans, if applied with that intention, what appears to be missing from our collection of fiscal policy recommendations is an intentionally race-conscious strategy to prevent a stratified recovery effort that leaves African-Americans and other people of color behind.

According to a report by Algernon Austin at the Economic Policy Institute, “Hispanic and black communities in metropolitan areas generally experience greater hardship from unemployment than whites.” Given this disparity and the fact that economists predict that the recovery for African-Americans will lag behind that of the general population, it is important that all new and emerging fiscal policy recommendations reflect a racial impact analysis that holds us to the highest standard of equal opportunity.

We cannot afford for fiscal policy recommendations to sacrifice the resources vital to the survival of low-income people and people of color, or for recommendations to remain silent on the uneven suffering experienced by communities of color in this recession. As history has taught us from the lessons of other periods of economic hardship, structurally excluding people of color from resources vital to the healthy development of their communities undermines our ability to sustain a collective recovery. Without an adequate equity lens attached firmly to our analyses of fiscal policy, all of our communities risk failing in the long run.

Written By Monique W. Morris

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