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2008 November - December

Keeping an American Promise

Safe, Decent, and Affordable Rental Housing for Everyone in Need

By Katherine E. Walz & Judith Levey

To meet the growing need for decent, affordable housing, energy must be focused not only on supporting new housing production programs, particularly those aimed at low- and very low-income families, but also on preserving existing affordable rental housing. Although preservation is a national challenge, varied local conditions call for a local response, framed with an understanding of the local housing market, the housing needs of low- and very low-income households, and the level of public and private support for preservation. A recent local initiative in Illinois aims to do just that: preserve the existing supply of affordable rental housing with an infusion of resources, energized commitment, innovative program development, and public-private collaboration.

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Increasing the Use of Executive Clemency to Help Low-Income People with Criminal Records

By Margaret Stapleton & Marie Claire Tran-Leung

Granting clemency is an expansive and individual power of the executive, and its exercise can break down the barriers to employment often faced by ex-offenders—and this means the difference between remaining in and escaping poverty. The next president should use his constitutionally based power to grant clemency frequently and should push for broader expungement rights for offenders as well as a society wide understanding of the value of democracy.

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Getting By or Getting Ahead? Public Policies to Help the Poor Build and Protect Assets

By Dory Rand & Brian Clappier

Creating and building financial assets are key to moving the poor from welfare and low-wage employment to economic success. Shortsighted policies (welfare reform and those that discourage access to banks, savings, and protection from predatory lenders) stand in the way of the poor in building assets. A new Congress and presidential administration can work to advance policies that help the poor overcome barriers, build assets, and move out of poverty into a secure economic future.

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What's a Mother to Do? Women, Low-Wage Employment, and Leave Policies

By Wendy Pollack

Most American workers must balance their work schedules with caregiving duties at home. Inadequate leave policies make this balance nearly impossible for many, particularly women, who generally bear more caregiving responsibilities than men and are more likely to hold jobs with minimal flexibility or leave. Workplace practices without adequate leave or flexibility may be discriminatory. Advocates must take action against such practices.

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A Federal Agenda for Affordable, Quality Child Care

By Daniel Lesser

Child care is essential for low-income parents who are working or seeking to enter the workforce. Affordable, quality child care not only promotes employment and economic stability for parents but also facilitates children’s cognitive and emotional development and prepares them to succeed academically when they start school. Because of the expense of child care, however, quality care is often inaccessible. To make work pay for low-income parents, the federal government should ensure affordable, quality child care for all families who need this support in order for parents to succeed in the workforce.

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Long-Term Federal Fiscal Problem Threatens Antipoverty Efforts in the United States

By James Horney

Projected long-term federal budget deficits pose a threat to the availability of the resources needed to implement and sustain an antipoverty agenda for the new president and Congress. To help ensure that sufficient resources are available to sustain antipoverty measures, advocates of those measures need to understand the threat that these deficits pose, the reasons for the deficits, and steps that can be taken to deal with them without undermining vital federal programs

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Better Jobs for Poor Workers

Linking Economic and Workforce Development to Fight Poverty

By Harry J. Holzer

Raising the earning potential of low-income workers is critical in the war against poverty. One way to ensure that low-income people earn more, and thus lift themselves out of poverty, is to improve their skills through education and training. Integrating economic and workforce development, rather than using welfare and tax incentives to induce low-income people to work more, warrants increased funding and the attention of anti-poverty advocates.

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Building Pathways to Prosperity for Low-Income and Hard-to-Employ Adults

By Evelyn Ganzglass

We must deploy strategies—education, training, and work supports—as pathways for low-income workers out of poverty. We must find pathways to connect hard-to-employ individuals—high school dropouts, ex-offenders, welfare recipients, low-skilled immigrants—to the education, training, and support they need to gain a foothold in the economy. The government must partner with the private sector, educational institutions, and community organizations to create a workforce system that aligns education and training with labor market needs. The new administration and Congress should pull together fragmented programs and funding streams into a workforce system that enables low-wage workers to prosper.

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Welfare Reform and Extreme Poverty

What to Do?

By Peter Edelman

Despite the steep decline in caseloads since welfare reform and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) began in the mid-1990s, the number of those categorized as living in “extreme poverty” has risen. The policies underlying welfare reform and the means by which they are applied have made TANF a porous safety net for the poor. Improved funding for child care, better programs for the hard-to-employ, and overhauling the time-limit rules are some of the ways in which TANF can be transformed to lift many out of extreme poverty.

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The Shriver Center's Twelve-Point National Agenda

Poverty-Fighting Ideas for a New Administration

By John Bouman

The United States can defeat poverty, providing we muster our resources and political will. We have many proven tools available to prevail in this battle, and we must be willing to experiment with other untested but promising approaches. The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law’s twelve-point antipoverty agenda is a framework for implementing public policies that make federal action central in overcoming our nation’s shameful legacy of poverty.

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Health Care Reform

Seizing the Moment and Shaping the Message

By John Bouman & Robert A. Crittenden

Health care reform has been a prominent issue in the electoral campaign. A consensus is that the current system offers too little coverage for too much money. But proposals to improve the system can easily sink into a political and rhetorical quagmire. Nonetheless, ensuring that every American has access to health care has become a core moral value for voters. Advocates should tap into this value system and frame their messages to avoid the barriers that have blocked past reform efforts.

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Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants

An Essential Tool in Fighting Poverty

By Josh Bernstein & Jonathan Blazer

Some twelve million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, many of them well integrated into the U.S. economy. Research and experience teach that legalizing undocumented immigrants would exponentially reduce poverty in immigrant communities. But legalization would also benefit low-income nonimmigrant communities and workers. Absent legalization, the issue of “illegal immigration” so easily lends itself to wedge politics and impedes antipoverty efforts.

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The Rollback of Civil Rights in the Courts and the Potential Impact of the Civil Rights Act of 2008

By Cristóbal Joshua Alex

Amid growing poverty and inequality, advocates’ ability to use the courts to enforce civil rights has been limited. In a series of decisions denying rights and remedies, the U.S. Supreme Court has chipped away at the reach of our civil rights acts. The new president must act to restore those civil rights that have been lost and to protect them from further attack. The Civil Rights Act of 2008, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy, can strengthen the foundation of civil rights and racial justice and ensure individual rights and liberties.

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