PROPOSED CHANGES TO PUBLIC CHARGE RULE RISK CHILLING EFFECT FOR IMMIGRANTS WHO USE PUBLIC BENEFITS

On October 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed revision to its longstanding public charge rule. Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the public charge rule determines whether individuals seeking legal permanent residence in the United States are inadmissible based on their current or prospective use of public benefits. While the public charge rule has previously penalized individuals who are primarily dependent upon cash assistance like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the DHS proposal proffers expanding the rule to consider any receipt of both cash and in-kind benefits like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The estimated impacts of these changes are far-reaching and devastating, especially for vulnerable populations. Experts warn that the revisions will have a chilling effect, in which immigrants will be deterred from enrolling in or will preemptively dis-enroll from essential food, health, and medical benefits. Per DHS, immigrants stand to forgo up to $2.27 billion annually in state and federal public benefits if the proposed rule is enacted.

How does the proposed rule work?
If revised, the public charge rule will censure individuals who use or are eligible for public benefits in applications to enter the country or to access green cards. The proposal alters the public charge rule’s totality of circumstances test, the series of cumulative factors DHS considers when determining green card eligibility. Under the proposed rule, higher income applicants are viewed more favorably than lower income ones. Receipt of 15% of the federal poverty line in cash assistance for the past 12 months, receipt of in-kind benefits for 12 of the past 36 months, and receipt of both cash assistance and in-kind benefits for 9 of the past 36 months are “heavily weighted negative factors” in the DHS test. Earnings above 250% of the federal poverty line, which is greater than the national median income, is a “heavily weighed positive factor” in the DHS test.

Which benefits are included in the proposed rule?
The public charge rule currently includes dependence on cash assistance programs like TANF, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid long-term care services. The proposed rule broadens the definition to the mere use of both cash assistance and in-kind benefits. Immigrants who participate in SNAP, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Medicare Part D, and most Medicaid services are public charges under the new rule. State-level General Assistance programs are also included in the new rule. Refundable tax credits, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Pell Grants, Head Start, and emergency Medicaid are excluded. While the proposed rule is intended to promote self-sufficiency, it hinders immigrants’ access to critical work supports and reduces their eligibility for green cards, which often serve as a ticket to higher quality employment.

Which populations are affected by the proposed rule?
DHS estimates that over 382,000 immigrants will be impacted by the revised public charge rule each year. While the proposed rule excludes certain vulnerable populations, such as refugees, asylees, and survivors of domestic violence, it stands to disproportionately impact two particularly high-needs groups: children and persons with disabilities. In penalizing parents who are likely to use public benefits while seeking entry to the United States, the proposed rule hinders both family unification and immigrant children’s access to essential services. Persons with disabilities often rely on Medicaid to access care and on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to power life-sustaining devices. The proposed rule jeopardizes their health by subjecting them to public review due to their participation in these programs.

What can I do to help?
Advocates for immigrant children, families, and communities can make their voices heard on this issue. DHS will receive comments on the rule until Monday, December 10. To submit a statement, visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal. For more opportunities to get involved, visit protectingimmigrantfamilies.org or paimmigrant.org. To learn more, review the City of Philadelphia’s action guide.

CEO Applauds the Restoration of General Assistance

In July 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated General Assistance, a cash stipend that previously served as a lifeline for nearly 70,000 low-income Pennsylvanians. The high court ruled that Act 80, the 2012 law ending the program, was passed despite a procedural misstep within the state legislature. Per the court’s ruling in Billie Washington v. the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, the error voids Act 80, thus allowing applicants to pursue General Assistance once again. As Philadelphia responds to epidemics of deep poverty and opioid use, the program’s renewal is truly a welcome development.

Prior to its closure, General Assistance played a critical bridging role in the Commonwealth’s network of income maintenance programs. Its recipients were individuals with substantial barriers to work who were largely ineligible for federal cash transfers. With the modest support of General Assistance’s $205 monthly grant, survivors of domestic violence, persons with chronic health conditions, and users of illicit substances in treatment programs were better positioned to weather trying circumstances. General Assistance’s support also relieved the fiscal strain on agencies that traditionally serve high-needs adults, such as housing and human services providers and state hospitals.

CEO commends the advocates who championed General Assistance and sought the overturn of Act 80. Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Success Against All Odds, and others have been engaged in a years-long battle on this issue. Their diligent work has furthered the economic security of vulnerable Philadelphians, particularly those seeking a safety net of last resort.

General Assistance application are open now via the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services COMPASS system. Visit www.compass.state.pa.us to apply. For application support, contact BenePhilly at 844-848-4376. For more information, visit Community Legal Services.

Philadelphia Must Work Harder and Smarter to Combat Poverty

Friends:

The Census Bureau has just released their annual poverty statistics for Philadelphia today, and it is clear that–despite progress–we still have much work to do.

The city’s overall poverty rate remains persistently high at 25.7%–essentially unchanged for the third year in a row, and the highest rate of any big city in the country. The brightest piece of news: childhood poverty has decreased from 37.3% to 31.9%

We at the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity have the privilege and responsibility of helping Mayor Kenney coordinate and execute a plan to combat poverty in our city, so for all of us this high poverty rate is not acceptable. We know that in order to create an equitable city, low-income residents must also realize the benefits of Philadelphia’s growth.

In 2013, the previous administration launched the Shared Prosperity agenda, which we’ve continued to execute to help improve the quality of life and economic prospects of our fellow citizens living in poverty. In some key areas, our efforts are making a difference. In 2017, our BenePhilly centers, hotline and mobile units, for instance, have helped more than 10,000 of our fellow citizens access more than $10 million in previously-unclaimed public assistance benefits. Since 2014, we helped 1,200 people through our Financial Empowerment Centers increase their credit score and financial viability.

Following the release of the census number, Mayor Kenney has said, “ CEO has played and will continue to play a significant role in the City’s anti-poverty agenda in this administration. CEO helps connect those currently struggling with poverty to resources and services. Just a few examples include helping residents gain access to public benefits through BenePhilly; providing financial counseling through Financial Empowerment Centers; and managing the Promise Zone designation to increase educational and economic opportunities in West Philadelphia.”

As Shared Prosperity approaches its fifth anniversary, we’re quickly assessing what we’ve learned to ensure an even bigger impact as we look to the future. We’ve begun a strategic planning process by reviewing data and speaking directly with a broad range of stakeholders. Already out of these steps, we’re learning more about our organization, our partners, and the unique role the next generation of Shared Prosperity agenda can and should play.

We’ve almost completed this quiet phase, and now we’re starting the process of hearing more directly from Philadelphians who live in poverty and have experience interacting with a range of city supportive services.

Through both a series of community listening sessions we’re planning with a select group of our partners, and a larger community round table tentatively scheduled for November, we are seeking the wisdom and perspective we can only get from those most impacted by our collective work.  We’re already focusing in on new approaches and ideas that we can’t wait to share with everyone. We encourage you to follow us on Twitter and check our website for updates, and look for the public release of our new plan later this year.

Today’s new Census number underscore what’s at stake here. We understand this, which is why we are taking this planning process so seriously. We know how important it is to get this right not just for those now living in poverty, but for ensuring the long-term economic well-being of all Philadelphians.

Sincerely,

Mitch Little

CEO Seeks a Promise Corps College & Career Site Supervisor

CEO is seeking a Promise Corps College & Career Site Supervisor for program planning and implementation at two-three schools in West Philadelphia. They provide day-to-day leadership of their schools’ AmeriCorps members (CCA’s), program implementation and school relations.  They provide information and recommendations to staff in regard to the supervision of corps members.  They maintain strong working relationships with principals, counselors and other school staff.  Duties include direct management of 10+ people, administrative support, program planning, program support, data management and maintaining evaluation records.  This person would also be responsible for the external communications of Promise Corps including all social media accounts, websites, printed materials, recruitment advertising and branding.  This position reports to the Promise Corps Program Director.

Essential Functions:

  • Coordinate college readiness programs and activities in collaboration with other higher education and community initiatives.
  • Recruit local applicants for AmeriCorps member positions.
  • Provide supervision, leadership, motivation, team building, conflict resolution and support to AmeriCorps members.
  • Establish positive relationship and effective communication with school leadership team including principals, school counselor and teachers to ensure program goals are achieved and students are receiving all benefits of Promise Corps program.
  • Establish relationships with external partners as needed to resource schools, students and Promise Corps and to collaborate on large events.
  • Gather and maintain evaluation records pertaining to program performance, particularly in regard to impact on high school students.
  • Ensure the submission of all required information from the site to appropriate program staff as needed for member’s files.
  • Utilize online timesheet and data collection portal to collect all information needed to measure programs performance measures.
  • Familiar with and proven successful use of social media platforms.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree required and one year of experience in an education setting or experience working directly with youth in Urban Communities.
  • A valid PA Driver’s license is required.
Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
  • Knowledge of college and career preparation, objectives and standards.
  • Managing a program and/or supervising people (preferably in a school setting).
  • Curriculum development and implementation preferred.
  • Working with service-learning, AmeriCorps programming, and member management preferred.

Competencies

  • Strong print and electronic communication skills.
  • Strong organizational and interpersonal skills.
  • Be a successful, dynamic and committed individual.
  • Capable of working beyond traditional working hours and keeping schedules is required.

Additional Information

Successful candidate must be a City resident within six months of hire.

The City of Philadelphia is an Equal Opportunity employer and does not permit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, source of income, familial status, genetic information or domestic or sexual violence victim status. If you believe you were discriminated against, call the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations at 215-686-4670 or send an email to faqpchr @phila.gov. For more information, go to: Human Relations Website: http://www.phila.gov/humanrelations/Pages/default.aspx

Apply for this position through SmartRecruiters at: https://jobs.smartrecruiters.com/CityofPhiladelphia/743999673705646-promise-corps-college-career-site-supervisor

The Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity Seeks Shared Prosperity Fellows

As a Shared Prosperity Fellow, you will serve as an ambassador for the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) and work alongside stakeholders from government, philanthropic agencies, academia, business and consumer communities, all in an effort to achieve a common understanding of the dynamics of poverty in Philadelphia and be an active participant in making change around complex issues.

Shared Prosperity Fellowships are offered in CEO’s policy and operations department. The following fellowship positions are open for undergraduate students, graduate students, and recent graduates during the Summer 2018 and Fall 2018 (30 hours/week for Summer, 15-25 hours/week for Fall based on Fellow’s class schedule).

Applications will be reviewed and offers will be extended on a rolling basis.

The complete application with job descriptions is available here. Applications are due by Monday, April 16th, 2018.

CEO Seeks Data Manager

The Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) is seeking a Data Manager. The Data Manager will be responsible for general oversight, reporting, training and user support to ensure the proper use CEO’s data management system (DMS) by CEO staff and sub-grantees. The Data Manager will ensure timely and accurate collection of participant data. The main focus of the role will be to provide technical and instructional support related to data management and reporting. The Data Manager will also help provide key technical expertise in the development and use of our DMS to measure and report on the progress of each of the funded initiatives and the goals of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia. This position reports to the Director of Planning and Evaluation and works very closely with the Director of Administration and the Director of Operations. There are no direct staff reports to this position.

Key responsibilities include:  management and administration of the DMS; development and implementation of database structures, relationship queries, and reporting dashboards; monitoring of data quality; supporting users by providing training and technical assistance; collection of data to support collective impact initiatives; analysis of data for agency-wide reporting.

Please see this job description for additional information: here.

 

America Saves Week

by Will Hall

The City of Philadelphia Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity (CEO), in partnership with America Saves and the American Savings Education Counsel, will promote February 26 – March 3, 2018 as “America Saves Week.” When we go from a place of debt to a place of savings, our money stops working for others and begins working for us.

Public support for saving is broad. 59% of Americans report that they enjoy saving over spending; however, 57% do not have enough cash to cover a $500 unexpected expense. While there are many reasons for this discrepancy and no single explanation can entirely reconcile it, low wages certainly explain a big part of the problem, particularly in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has a median household income of $41,233. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition estimates that the necessary annual income to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia at fair market rent is $48,440. With over half of all households not earning enough to cover a need so basic as housing, individuals and families aren’t saving simply because they just can’t afford to. The result is often the high cost debt in the case of an emergency, putting low-income individuals even further from certain financial goals like higher education and home ownership.

Throughout America Saves Week, CEO will be releasing tools and tips to help you make a savings habit. These tools will include incentives from America Saves for committing to save, information on saving for retirement and automatic savings, saving your tax refund, and information on how you can schedule an appointment with the counselors at one of our Financial Empowerment Centers.

Since opening in early 2013, Philadelphia’s Financial Empowerment Centers have helped clients reduce debt by $13.8 million and increase savings $1.7 million. A report from Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund recently found that “[b]oth counselors and focus group participants reported that Financial Empowerment Center services gave them a ‘finances toolbox’—a variety of knowledge and skills that empowered them to navigate complex financial issues and solve financial problems.” Establishing a habit of saving money can be difficult, especially for those with incomes that are insufficient to meet basic needs, but with the right advice, the right amount of support, and a well-crafted plan, savings can be accessible.

Executive Director’s Statement on President Trump’s FY19 Budget Proposal

Statement on President Trump’s FY19 Budget Proposal

President Trump released his FY 2019 budget proposal last week, which included cuts to many programs affecting low-income families. His proposal included the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program  (LIHEAP). He is also proposing a significant change to the way SNAP benefits are administered.

The magnitude to which these cuts would affect Philadelphia residents is astounding. Without the federal dollars that fund these essential programs, hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians would be adversely affected. Community Action Agencies, like the Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity, share a common mission of fighting poverty. Full implementation of President Trump’s proposal would put Community Action Agencies at risk, potentially eliminating these agencies all together.  

David Bradley, CEO of National Community Action Foundation, noted that cutting funding from CSBG, money that creates opportunities “for 16 million people across the country, a program with bipartisan support in Congress, abandons every community in America and burdens local communities.” He went on to state that “Congress, Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate, will not accept this cut.”

At the Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity, we are committed to deepening our efforts and the work of other organizations that have shown a commitment to improving the quality of life for all Philadelphians. We are proud to stand with all of you today and everyday, demanding that this budget proposal be denied.  

 

Impacts of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Philadelphia’s Residents in Poverty

Impacts of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Philadelphia’s Residents in Poverty

January 15, 2018
By Lauren Parker, Assistant Director of Planning & Evaluation
City of Philadelphia Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity

Nearly 400,000 Philadelphia residents live in poverty, half in deep poverty . For the average Philadelphian household of three, poverty means sustaining a family on $1,700 a month pre-tax and deep poverty means impossibly doing so on $850 a month . Moving people out of poverty is perhaps the most critical issue facing Philadelphia today.

As the City of Philadelphia’s anti-poverty agency, the Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity keeps a close eye on policy changes that could affect low-income residents. As such, we’re deeply concerned about the impact of the federal tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law on December 22.

This bill will do many things – perhaps most significantly it will create a $1.5 trillion deficit to the economy over the next 10 years by giving enormous tax breaks to corporations (which have seen record profits in the past few years) and mandating that low- and moderate-income households pay for those handouts. This growing deficit leaves me wondering if our Congress is teeing up an argument to cut social welfare programs to pay for these future deficits.

Based on projections by the Tax Policy Center, most households making less than $75,000 (three-quarters of households in Philadelphia) will see increases in the long-term under this new tax bill, with low-income families bearing the brunt. In 2027, when personal exemptions expire, a married couple making $30,000 with two children will have to shell out an additional $400 more than what they paid in 2017, which is significant.

Despite the purported failures, an additional 20 million people in our nation became insured under the Affordable Care Act . In Philadelphia, Medicaid expansion allowed 166,000 low-income people gain coverage and fewer people avoided health care because of cost . However, in 2019 this tax bill will eliminate a main incentive to become insured – the individual mandate. Without the mandate, an estimated 13 million people will drop their coverage . By doing so, fewer residents will get the preventative care needed to avoid more costly procedures down the line and premiums will rise, further dis-incentivizing health care coverage. This is significant to people in poverty because there is strong evidence that health insurance, both private and public, actually lifts people out of poverty by reducing out-of-pocket medical spending. This is especially true for children.

Philadelphia is often characterized as an affordable city – indeed, compared to our neighbors in New York City and Washington D.C., housing costs seem reasonable, especially for middle-income families. But for renters making less than $35,000, living in Philadelphia is, in real terms, unaffordable. An astounding 85% of these households spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is the major vehicle for developing affordable housing in the country, often praised for its ability to stimulate private investment without subjection to the fancy of congressional appropriations. In Philadelphia alone, an estimated 24,650 residents live in units financed by LIHTC .

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will have a devastating effect on the production of LIHTC-financed housing. By lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% (the lowest rate since 1939), banks and investors will have less tax liability and less desire to seek out tax credits like LIHTC, making the market for tax credits much less competitive. This will leave affordable housing developers with less investment on the dollar to finance their projects.

The impact of the tax bill on low- and moderate-income individuals and families will be significant, but so will be the impact on our partners in the non-profit community that rely on charitable giving to stay afloat. Under H.R.1, the standard deduction will double, making individuals will be less likely to itemize their tax deductions, such as their yearly donations. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 21 million fewer taxpayers will itemize their charitable donations – a cut nearly in half . This is severe for the network of service providers and community-based organizations doing anti-poverty work that rely on donations to buffer their budgets.

While the congressional fight for the tax bill may be over, the impacts have yet to set in, so a fight is still to be had. Now is the time to strategize in our personal lives and within our institutions. We must ask ourselves how we can be more engaged political citizens and continue to pressure our elected officials to stand up for the literal survival of our low-income neighbors; to underscore the point that it is exactly systems and policies like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that perpetuate poverty and lead to cuts in social supports down the line. Let us not forget this moment. Let us not allow our representatives to forget this moment either.

New Research on Poverty in Philadelphia by The Pew Charitable Trusts

New Research on Poverty in Philadelphia by The Pew Charitable Trusts

December 13, 2017

On the coldest morning of the season, attendees from diverse agencies, organizations, and professions gathered to discuss and engage with research on one of Philadelphia’s most pressing issues: poverty. Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of the ten largest cities and ranks fifth among the poorest large cities in the nation. The poverty rate in the city has remained largely unchanged over the last decade: now at 25.7%. Director Larry Eichel and Officer Octavia Howell of The Pew Charitable Trust unpack these figures in their newest report, “Philadelphia’s Poor: Who they are, where they live, and how that has changed”. The Pew Report can be found here.

Their research found that children, Hispanic residents, and African-American residents disproportionately experience poverty, each group having a poverty rate well above the city-wide average. Households in poverty are distinct in that they are more often headed by women, and are more likely to include children. Additionally, while most cities across the nation have seen a “suburbanization” of poverty, Philadelphia is seeing a concentration of poverty within city limits. Eichel and Howell speculate that this difference is related to the relatively low costs of public transportation and housing within the city, and the higher land-use regulation of surrounding suburban counties.

During the Q&A that followed, attendees raised questions on the history and geography of poverty in the city. Others were more about the personal experiences of residents: What is life like for almost 400,000 persons experience poverty in our city? While Census data does not lend itself to an easy answer, attendees were eager to share their ideas and solutions to create change on the ground.

Mitch Little, Executive Director of the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, closed the event with a call to action: “We understand where it is and who it is. Do we have the gumption to have the conversation and dig deeper?”

Here’s what you said about the Roundtable:

What is one thing that you will take away from this Roundtable to enhance the work you do?

  • Talking about poverty without race is not meaningful.”
  • “New areas of poverty where we have low programming.”
  • “Child poverty rate is incredible – and we need to continue to work to improve their situation.”

How could future Roundtables be improved?

  • “Building on this one so that it is not a one and done. We now have the data, so what next?”
  • “Another session to discuss presentation in smaller groups then returning to the larger group with comments, questions, and application.”
  • “More opportunity for participants to speak to each other.”

Click here to access the Presentation from the Roundtable.