Storm clouds on the horizon for the economy

Storm clouds on the horizon for the economy

Media statement, in the news, Georgia news, ga news

Storm clouds on the horizon for the economy

The latest Consumer Price Index released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in the past month, the Federal Reserve successfully achieved its inflation target by meeting a 2% increase in prices on a seasonally adjusted monthly basis. This signifies a step towards maintaining economic stability and balance. But there are still storm clouds on the horizon.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “While this is positive news, a concerning trend has emerged since the onset of the pandemic,” said Erik Randolph, GCO’s director of research. “Overall, goods cost 18.2% more today than they did before the start of the pandemic due to rampant inflation. Simply put, everyday essentials are far less affordable in 2023 than they were three or four years ago. That hits the impoverished and low-income Americans the hardest. At the federal level, there appears to be a lack of substantive discussion regarding measures to restore the diminished purchasing power of consumers. That is concerning.”

    Are Work Requirements Good or Bad?

    Are Work Requirements Good or Bad?

    Man sitting with his hands folded

    Are Work Requirements Good or Bad?

    Key Points

    • The arguments around work requirements ignore the purpose of how our safety net services should work.
    • The public, in general, agree with the argument for work requirements because they see the system as a temporary solution.
    • We must reform the system so that we move people into opportunity and thriving.

    As the federal government debates the debt ceiling and attempts to bring spending under control, one recurring topic is work requirements for adults on government benefits and safety net services. The argument is that implementing work requirements will encourage more people to leave welfare programs, which in turn would decrease spending on one of the biggest expenses in the federal budget.

    However, the debate about work requirements should not, in my opinion, be connected to fiscal accountability. Instead, it should be linked to the central purpose of these services and the people needing them.

     

    A look at work requirements

    To understand these challenges we need to look at the differing opinions on work requirements. On one side you hear the argument that not requiring work for benefits like SNAP and Medicaid is a disincentive to work for those on benefits. In other words, people are staying on benefits longer than necessary because there is no benefit to getting off, and in many cases, it is more costly to get off.

    On the other side, the argument requiring work is simply a way to save money which ultimately hurts the poor. The argument is people in need of food support and healthcare will not be able to work and thus will be forced off of services without work.

    Both of these arguments ignore the full experience of those on safety net services. Therefore, I want to challenge us to set aside political talking points and have a real discussion on the issue. These arguments are fraught with finger-pointing and people assigning motivations to each other. The discussion around work requirements is important because it challenges us to ask, “What is the purpose of our welfare system?”

     

    With The Alliance for Opportunity, we are crafting policies that will create a clear path to get off safety net services and into opportunity in Georgia.

    With The Alliance for Opportunity, we are crafting policies that will create a clear path to get off safety net services and into opportunity in Georgia.

    Work requirements aren’t a bad idea

    At the Georgia Center for Opportunity, we generally agree with the idea of work requirements, but not for the reasons political pundits throw around. We are not trying to “weed out bad actors” or trying to reduce government expenditures. Those outcomes may come to pass but they cannot and should not be the intent of such measures. 

    While there is a politicized debate currently raging, the idea of requiring work to continue to receive benefits is not new. FDR’s New Deal, the framework for our current safety net system, pushed for a system that helped those unable to work like children or disabled individuals. The expansion of such a system to cover the unemployed came later in the process and was designed to be a stopgap between employment.

    As the system expanded even further, it became apparent the support should include systems to get people back into work—this led to job training and education programs.

    That is where we are today and ultimately how we should be looking at the safety net system for those able to work. The system must be designed to ask, “How can we help you get back on your feet and be self-sustainable?” Not because you are only valuable if you work, but because you are a valuable member of society. This view of membership is probably why work requirements are very popular among the US population. We value and understand the importance of work.

    The research on the value of work is expansive. It leads to positive outcomes for families, improved personal mental health, and deeper community value. It is what we should want for people. It is what we should build our services to provide people, not a paycheck but an opportunity.


    The arguments against work requirements 

    The issue becomes more complex when you recognize the valid arguments against work requirements. One of these is that work requirements don’t increase work rates—they simply cut people off of needed services

    The argument is that these requirements add another stress level to people just trying to survive. This creates yet another hurdle for those already struggling to navigate a complex process. The result is people find a different means to survive or they simply give up. Obviously, no one wants to add to people’s burdens.

    Rather than arguing against work requirements, these challenges highlight the flaws in our current system. The system is poorly designed and does not lead to the outcomes we want for people.

    Work requirements are a good policy in a bad system

    Policymakers are notoriously inept when it comes to policy reforms. Half-measures have resulted in a system that is not focused on outcomes. If the system were structured to reduce complexity and alleviate stress for those seeking job support, then a work requirement could be the positive encouragement it should be.

    This is one reason we are working with other state think tanks on a One Door Model that would transform our safety net services and create a clear, supportive, and accessible path to work.

    These types of policies are critical to ensure that we are helping those in need. They are also critical to ensure that we deliver dignity and hope as an outcome. 

    About The Author

    Corey Burres

    VP of Communication and Marketing

    Corey Burres is the director the award-winning education documentary Flunked. He served as a consultant with many state think tanks around the country to help them utilize marketing and story telling to improve public policy. He is active in the foster care community and working to help build a better community around him.

    Brockway: Utah’s ‘One Door’ Policy Shows The Way Forward On Safety-Net Reforms

    Brockway: Utah’s ‘One Door’ Policy Shows The Way Forward On Safety-Net Reforms

    Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

    Brockway: Utah’s ‘One Door’ Policy Shows The Way Forward On Safety-Net Reforms

    Below is an opinion column by Buzz Brockway:

    The April unemployment report shows that job opportunities remain at historic highs across the country. In fact, the report came in better than expected at a 3.4% unemployment rate, exceeding expectations for the resilience and strength of the labor market.

    In this environment, no work-capable person should be without a job. But the sad reality is that the very safety net system created to help people who are struggling is the same one contributing to keeping them mired in generational poverty. I’m talking about America’s social-safety net system.

    As it stands, our nation’s welfare system is a fragmented hodgepodge of programs. The dozens of programs that make up “the system” have different and, at times, competing goals, inconsistent rules, and overlapping groups of recipients. 

    The complicated nature of welfare is more than a nuisance. For recipients, it’s a detrimental barrier to advancing to a better life. The scenario in signing up for welfare benefits is confusing at best. Even if people do find the right office, they must resubmit the same information multiple times, and often eligibility is determined by conflicting rules. Would-be recipients may end up with multiple plans and multiple caseworkers.

    Ultimately, every hour someone spends navigating the safety-net system is an hour they aren’t spending looking for ways to escape it.

    Adding to the confusion, there is often a disconnect between safety-net programs and welfare-to-work initiatives. This keeps people stuck in poverty. The safety net is essential for catching those who are falling, but it isn’t a destination. Although this truth is often politicized and used to advance a certain agenda, the vast majority of Americans recognize that work is the best way to escape poverty. It should be our goal to remove every barrier to a life of thriving, and that includes obstacles to work.

    The path into poverty is deeply individual, and so reforms are needed for a more holistic approach. Streamlining the safety-net process is mandatory to avoid conflicting rules and inconsistent treatment of people between programs. A big part of this is consolidating and combining programs that serve the same families. For individuals, this will eliminate the need to go to multiple agencies for help. It will also mean that welfare recipients will be connected straight to work programs, setting a foundation to free them from generational poverty.

    Is there an example of success in this arena? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. We should look to Utah as an example of a state in the nation that is leading the way.

    Utah’s “one door” policy has integrated human services with workforce services and provides citizens with a single program to work through. Welfare becomes work support, and people have a clear path to get the help they need while receiving education, training, and other support to find employment. On the fiscal front, the state also integrates federal and state funds using a unique cost model that has proven highly effective.

    Brockway: Utah’s ‘One Door’ Policy Shows The Way Forward On Safety-Net Reforms

    Utah’s ‘One Door’ Policy Shows the Way Forward on Safety-net Reforms

    Georgia news, in the news, current events, Georgia happenings, GA happenings

    Utah’s ‘One Door’ Policy Shows the Way Forward on Safety-net Reforms

    By Buzz Brockway

    The April unemployment report shows that job opportunities remain at historic highs across the country. In fact, the report came in better than expected at a 3.4% unemployment rate, exceeding expectations for the resilience and strength of the labor market.

    In this environment, no work-capable person should be without a job. But the sad reality is that the very safety net system created to help people who are struggling is the same one contributing to keeping them mired in generational poverty. I’m talking about America’s social-safety net system.

    As it stands, our nation’s welfare system is a fragmented hodgepodge of programs. The dozens of programs that make up “the system” have different and, at times, competing goals, inconsistent rules, and overlapping groups of recipients. 

     

    Businesses fleeing cities over crime is a warning sign we can’t ignore

    Businesses fleeing cities over crime is a warning sign we can’t ignore

    tent camp, homeless

    Businesses fleeing cities over crime is a warning sign we can’t ignore

    Key Points

    • Crime is causing businesses to flee communities already experiencing a lack of opportunity.
    • As businesses flee high-crime areas, there is a negative impact on the price and availability of goods in underserved communities
    • Communities will see healthcare and community health impacts from this loss of retailers.

    We keep hearing about it: Businesses and retailers fleeing downtown areas—or entire city communities—due to violence, theft, and crime. It happened in Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but it should be a warning to other cities around the country.

    The exodus of companies due to crime creates a downward spiral for communities already experiencing a lack of opportunity.


    LIMITED ACCESS AND HIGHER PRICES


    When businesses flee a community they take convenience, jobs, and access to goods. The result is a market crisis where demand stays steady while limited access increases the price of goods and incomes stagnate or decrease. 

    The inability to access goods at reasonable prices is a direct response to the loss of competition. No longer are you able to buy essentials at market value but instead you pay premium prices as supply is constrained. This is no different than what we experienced nationally over the past few years as supply constraints pushed the price of gas, milk, and other essentials higher.

    This limitation of access to transportation, clothing, and food will have consequences in other areas of community health and opportunity.

    THE IMPACT ON HEALTHY FOOD OPTIONS

    Take the limited access to food issue. We know that lack of healthy food options in underserved communities is an ongoing problem. Cheaper food options, which are “shelf-stable,” tend to be less healthy. This creates a downward trend of poorer health outcomes like obesity resulting in a rise in healthcare costs.

    Communities with a lack of affordable healthy food options get stuck in a cycle where they are less healthy, less likely to work, and more dependent on temporary, less-reliable healthcare. When we see stores closing or moving out of a community due to violence, we see smaller businesses that cannot afford to absorb the costs of throwing out healthier foods. The result is that these businesses tend to stock less perishable and more unhealthy items on their shelves.

    This means that these communities become more dependent on systems and services to survive long term. Our safety-net programs are designed to be temporary systems that catch people (or even communities) at the point of tragedy to help them get back on their feet. But when opportunity flees, these individuals are left hopeless, looking for what’s next. They become trapped in their circumstance.

    “…communities become more dependent on systems and services to survive long term.”

    “…communities become more dependent on systems and services to survive long term.”

    CRIME IS THE TRUE THIEF

    Crime and the unwillingness to address crime robs communities of value. It makes these communities into societal pariahs.

    Not only are these communities unable to access adequate goods, they are unable to find local jobs and services. When companies flee an area, they take hundreds of entry to mid-level jobs. In a community that is reliant on these types of job opportunities, it once again means they have no path out of their current situation.

    In his study of ethics, Immanuel Kant asserted that “if you steal from him, you steal from yourself.” It’s a philosophical acknowledgment that crime steals from the entire community. It takes livelihood, property, and security away from everyone in the community including the perpetrator because it destabilizes.

    While it’s hard for some to have sympathy for a mega-corporation needing to close a store, it is a warning sign to the health of that community. Vibrant communities, which we often speak of here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, are ones that attract opportunities. They are communities so lively that everyone, even mega-corporations, wants to be a part of them. As we begin to see these companies leave a community it catches headlines, but the real-world impact is much more than a temporary blip in our newsfeed.

    We must address crime in communities to keep opportunity open to all.

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    Inflation is becoming worse for Americans on a fixed income

    Inflation is becoming worse for Americans on a fixed income

    In The News

    Inflation is becoming worse for Americans on a fixed income

    Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that in April the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.4%, not seasonally adjusted. Year over year, the CPI has gone up 4.9% in the last 12 months.

    The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “Not only has the federal government abandoned restoring purchasing power, they do not appear even capable of bringing inflation down to the Federal Reserve’s inflation rate target of 2%,” said Erik Randolph, GCO’s director of research. “Devaluing the dollar means that Americans must have comparable wage inflation just to keep with prices. That’s worse for Americans living on fixed incomes, the working class, and the poor.”