Ownership & Assets

Fifty Years Since the War on Poverty, We Need an Assets Perspective

January 8, 2014
Publication Image Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of an “unconditional war on poverty in America.”  The big, predictable question seems to be: so, did we win?

But are we even on the same battlefield?

The short answer is no. Since the 1960s, our understanding of poverty has evolved and changed dramatically – and it’s time to apply a more modern perspective to our solutions.

Hello 2014, Goodbye Medicaid Asset Limit

January 2, 2014
Publication Image The first day of 2014 marked the official first day of expanded insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This is a big deal. As Wonkblog notes, yesterday ushered in “the most significant change to our health-care system” in nearly fifty years.

Though much of the discussion around the ACA rollout has focused on how many Americans have signed up for private plans, a lesser known impact of the new law is that millions of Americans are now eligible for Medicaid. The Washington Post offered a nice assessment of these changes earlier this week. One small, but critical, aspect of the Medicaid expansion is the  elimination of the Medicaid asset limit. This provision will allow millions of low-income families to both get the health coverage they need and maintain or build a modest savings cushion. The Medicaid expansion has been rejected by half of the states but the elimination of the asset test applies to all states, not only those that have adopted the expansion. States will still have discretion to impose limits on elderly and disabled beneficiaries, but the majority of Medicaid enrollees will now be able to save freely.

Asset Building News Week, December 9-13

December 13, 2013
Publication Image The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include poverty, public assistance, race and wealth.

The Federal Budget Widens the Racial Wealth Gap

December 12, 2013
Publication Image Yesterday, the Center for Global Policy Solutions hosted a webinar to discuss the relationship between the racial wealth gap and the federal budget. At a time when the structure of the federal budget contributes to the perpetuation of the racial wealth gap, rather than the elimination of it, finding asset-based solutions to address this inequity are urgently needed. Both panelists, James Carr, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and our own Justin King, Policy Director of the Asset Building Program, agreed that current federal policies too often exacerbate racial inequality and consequently negatively affect the American economy and body politic.

New Research on the Relationship between Race and Retirement Security in the U.S.

December 11, 2013
Publication Image A new study from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) documents the wide gulf between white Americans and Americans of color when it comes to retirement savings. The study looks at both worker- and household-level data and finds pervasive racial disparities in access to employer-based retirement plans and levels of retirement savings. Even after controlling for age and income, households of color have substantially less access to and lower levels of retirement savings than white households.

Event Thursday: In Poverty, Under Surveillance

December 10, 2013
New America's Open Technology Institute, Asset Building Program, and Breadwinners and Caregivers Program are teaming up to host an event this week to explore the interconnected issues of privacy and poverty, specifically as they play out in the public assistance system.

Families and individuals accessing the public benefits system are required to provide extensive personal and financial information as a condition of receiving benefits. Depending on the requirements of individual programs, they may also have to endure unannounced home visits, fingerprinting or drug testing, and other routinized violations of privacy that more privileged members of society have come to expect. These intrusions are often justified by policymakers as measures to “reduce fraud” or to ensure that only the most desperate people access the programs.

Upcoming Webinar: Finding Solutions to Address the Racial Wealth Gap through the Federal Budget

December 9, 2013
Publication Image This Wednesday, the Center for Global Policy Solutions will host a webinar with the purpose of exploring how federal asset-building programs affect communities of color. The federal budget includes several asset-building provisions that are intended to help citizens build savings and develop wealth, but whose impact on communities of color is limited.

The Little Housing Program That Could

December 5, 2013
Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on New America's Weekly Wonk. Learn more about Helen Seide and other successful graduates of Montgomery County's Housing Opportunities Commission Family Self-Sufficiency program in this video.

It should’ve been a fresh start for Helen Seide. It was 2001, and she had finally escaped her abusive marriage. But as her relationship dissolved, her finances, too, collapsed like a house of cards: Seide, suddenly a single working parent with three young daughters, couldn’t afford her rent and lost her apartment. A hotel became their temporary home as Seide struggled to support her family on her earnings as a hospital secretary. But the late shifts were hard to balance with her children’s day care. Her paychecks shrank. They needed help.

After months in the hotel, followed by another two years in transitional housing, that help came. A voucher for rental assistance allowed her family to move to their own apartment in Montgomery County, Maryland—a first step on their move out of poverty. Today, Seide is a proud homeowner with a stable job as a medical coder. Her oldest, now 17, is on track to attend college next year.

Costs of Caregiving takes a Bite out of the Sandwich Generation

December 6, 2013
Publication Image Being a caregiver isn't just a gesture of the heart, it's a commitment of the wallet. And, as more adults are finding themselves in the position of caring for both young children and their own elderly parents, this "sandwich generation" is expending substantial personal resources to compensate for inadequate public support.

New Paper: Next Generation Reforms for HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program

December 5, 2013
Publication Image I’m pleased to be releasing a new policy paper today for the Asset Building Program. The paper, entitled “Asset-Oriented Rental Assistance: Next Generation Reforms for HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program,” takes an in-depth look at the current state of research on the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program and makes a set of recommendations for its improvement. Over the past two years, I’ve spoken with FSS program coordinators around the country. These are individuals who are working hard to implement the program in creative ways in diverse communities – and facing a range of challenges as they go. This paper is based in large part on these conversations and aims to reflect both the triumphs and frustrations that these particular programs have experienced. I’ve included reviews of recent wide-scale evaluations of the program to provide additional context.
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