Submitted Mon Jul 11 2011 18:16:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by Sarah Crane, Rachael Malerman, Detroit Jewish News
Prominent members of the African American and Jewish communities from across the country gathered in Detroit to team up and confront poverty and racism. From June 27-30, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Metropolitan Detroit hosted the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Mission to Detroit. Working to facilitate interfaith and interracial efforts to eradicate poverty, the mission gave participants many ideas to take back to their home communities along with a new and positive perspective of the city of Detroit.
Among the participants were Detroit’s own Ben Falik, JCRC board member and co-founder of Summer in the City, a volunteer program that engages teens and young adults with the city of Detroit, and QuanTez Pressley, Director of Community Outreach and speechwriter for Detroit City Council president Charles Pugh. In addition to Detroit, participants came from Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, Providence and Silicon Valley. From a state representative to a JCRC chair to an incoming president of a local NAACP office, the mission brought together a diverse group of people who were passionate about tackling issues of race and poverty.
At the mission’s opening dinner, Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the Detroit Jewish News, and Bankole Thompson, Senior Editor of the Michigan Chronicle, joined together to serve as speakers and panelists for the group. Laying the groundwork for conversations about interfaith and interracial partnerships, Horwitz and Thompson told how they strive to build relationships between the Jewish and African American communities by engaging their respective ethnic media.
On the first full day of the mission, participants boarded a bus for on-site visits to several successful Detroit programs designed to combat blight and poverty in the city. Stops along the tour included: Focus:Hope, a community building organization; TechTown, a business incubator; Piquette Square, home to 150 homeless veterans in southwest Detroit; Earthworks Urban Farm, cultivator of numerous community gardens and supplier to Capuchin Soup Kitchen; Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, the only free standing synagogue in the city of Detroit, and the Heidelberg Project, two city blocks filled with captivating art. The tour helped bring to light a side of Detroit rarely seen in the media. It showed a city full of life and opportunity and a place filled with passionate community members.
After seeing Detroit from the road, group members had a chance to get their hands dirty at a community garden project: Participant Ben Falik provided mission participants with the opportunity to work with Summer in the City volunteers at Romanowski Farm Park in southwest Detroit. The project brought up issues of food insecurity, along with underlying issues of racism. It became apparent that in order to fight poverty and hunger on a wide scale, the racial and city/suburb divide must be resolved.
At the end of the four day conference, which included such speakers as Southfield mayor Brenda Lawrence and Jewish Council for Public Affairs chair Dr. Conrad L. Giles, participants were given an opportunity to collaborate with each other to find ways to apply the experience in Detroit to their own communities. Nashville partners Irwin Venick and Howard Gentry hoped to create a similar conference that brings together African American and Jewish young professionals. Rhode Island participants Jim Vincent, Scott Libman, and Marty Cooper suggested that an ongoing relationship be formed between the Jewish and African American media, along with the creation of multicultural networking in an effort to create new jobs in their community. Additionally, Roslyn Duman and Barbara Shannon Banister of Colorado suggested that working together to facilitate dialogue would be more beneficial than simply talking about the issues.
Detroit served as a perfect example of a thriving and re-emerging city. The positive view of the city’s various programs contributed to the success of the mission and has opened the doors to future collaboration between Jewish and African American communities in Detroit and across the country.
Sarah Crane is the Community Relations Associate at the JCRC and currently resides in Farmington Hills.
Rachael Malerman is a JOIN Intern at the JCRC and lives in West Bloomfield.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?
From June 27th – 30th, Jewish and African American community leaders from seven communities, including Detroit, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, Providence and Silicon Valley, joined together in Detroit – a city that has come to embody many of the modern day struggles of poverty in America – to examine the role of black-Jewish partnerships in creating positive change. Over the course of four days, during which community leaders met with organizations and individuals working to address issues of poverty and revive the city of Detroit, Hillel’s famous three questions – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” – became increasingly relevant.
Participants of the Jewish/African American Community Leaders trip to Detroit
Participants observed a city not only struggling to overcome the numerous and interrelated challenges of poverty, but also struggling to forge stronger, more affective partnerships between the Jewish and African American communities, the city and its surrounding suburbs, and between older and younger generations of leaders committed to rebuilding Detroit. Last summer, JCPA hosted a similar mission in Birmingham, Alabama – a city rooted in the history of the civil rights movement. On that mission we learned that despite the outward appearance of segregation, the Jewish and African American communities came together quite often to battle the bitter Jim Crow laws and further human rights for all citizens. Similar to Birmingham, Detroit also has history of racial divisiveness and tension that, in many ways, has impeded its ability to truly address issues of poverty. As mission participants witnessed the admirable anti-poverty efforts of organizations and individuals in Detroit, the absence of interracial partnerships in these efforts served as a reminder to Hillel’s teachings that as both individuals and as communities, we cannot only be for ourselves.
Detroit, a city that faces a dwindling economy, a failing public school system, inadequate public services, abandoned infrastructure, and a fractured sense of community – struggles that cannot truly be solved until a diverse set of committed leaders joins together around shared concerns, interests and morals – clearly depicts the sense of urgency in answering Hillel’s three questions. But even more important than answering these questions, participants must find ways to take action in their own communities to strengthen interracial anti-poverty initiatives. The JCPA’s 4th annual Jewish and African American community leaders mission to Detroit was a unique and valuable opportunity to shed light on modern-day issues of poverty and the opportunities involved in forging interracial anti-poverty initiatives. The true measure of the mission’s success, however, will be the ability of mission participants to strengthen interracial relations in their own communities centered on addressing issues of poverty.
While the past teaches us about the opportunities and benefits to strengthening intergroup relations, the present teaches us about the many challenges involved in this work. The JCPA thanks mission participants who put in the time and effort to join us in Detroit and the JCRCs who sponsored them. Looking forward, we also offer encouragement and support to participants as they begin the difficult work required to unite their communities around anti-poverty initiatives.
If you are interested in more information about the mission to Detroit, or if you are interested in participating in next year’s Jewish/African American community leaders mission, please email Emily Kaplan.
Submitted Thu Jun 30 2011 18:11:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by Oralandar Brand-Williams, The Detroit News
African-American, Jewish activists from across U.S. share lessons
Detroit — African-American and Jewish community leaders from around the country are expected to wrap up today a conference in Detroit about poverty.
The Mission to Detroit conference, sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, brought together activists from both groups to explore ways to battle poverty in their cities.
The year's conference participants came from around the country, including Nashville, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Providence, R.I.
Jim Vincent, the president of the NAACP branch in Providence, came to Detroit along with Marty Cooper, community relations director for the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and Scott Libman, a board member of the Jewish Alliance.
The three men spent a part of Wednesday afternoon weeding an urban garden at the Romanowski Park on Lonyo Street near Livernois. The three said they are taking note of Detroit residents' use of blighted lots for growing food.
Rhode Island has a 10.9 percent jobless rate, one of the highest in the country.
"Urban gardening is great because it's about people coming together around a positive issue like food," Vincent said.
Libman said the conference has given community leaders a chance to look at what they can do to help their cities
Although Rhode Island "has not reached the level of poverty" of Detroit, Libman said part of the discussions for his group is "how can we bring some of these ideas back."
Cooper said Rhode Island needs to "reinvent itself much like Detroit."
In addition to addressing poverty, the conference deals with ways for African-American and Jewish community leaders to form new ties.
"It's important because there has been a gap in recognizing the need to work together," Libman said.
Ben Falik, a conference participant and manager of service initiatives for Repair the World: Detroit, said the conference gives a chance for activists and community leaders to look at innovative and creative ways to deal with the issue of poverty.
"This is really a critical time to spotlight poverty," said Falik, also the co-founder of Summer in the City volunteer organization.
"There's a real value to bringing different leaders from different parts of the country here," said Falik. "We sometimes think these problems are unique to Detroit."
Submitted Mon Jun 27 2011 18:14:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
Jewish and African-American leaders from across the country are in Detroit this week to bond while finding ways to fight poverty at a time when the problem is growing.
Sponsored by the national office of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the program involves three days of activities with about 20 Jewish and African-American leaders who will be paired up to foster friendship. In addition to fighting poverty, the goal of the program is to improve relations between the two minority communities.
"It's not as close as it was," Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said of black-Jewish ties. But "there's still an underlying connection."
Starting today, the participants will be meeting with Focus: HOPE, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, among other agencies, to hear how groups are trying to fight poverty in a struggling region.
In Detroit, more than 36% of residents are living poverty while across Michigan, the poverty rate is more than 22%, according to 2009 U.S. Census figures. The program will include leaders from Denver, New York and Nashville, Tenn., among other cities.
"We're facing a world where there will be more and more poverty," Gutow said. "There will be more and more poor people in the streets of our country. And so having relationships will be very important to resolve the problem."
After the gathering ends, the plan is for the partners to keep in touch "as friends and look at their own communities" to help deal with poverty, he said.
QuanTez Pressley, 24, a youth pastor at Hartford Memorial Baptist and director of community outreach for City Council President Charles Pugh, is one of the participants.
"I'm looking forward to learning from people all over the country," he said. Pressley said the partnership highlights the ties between younger generations of blacks and Jews.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792 or email@example.com
Submitted Mon Jun 20 2011 18:08:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by Ben Suarato, JCPA Press Release
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will bring African American and Jewish leaders from communities across the country to Detroit next week to build on existing interfaith and interracial partnerships and deepen their engagement in anti-poverty work.
“The African American / Jewish Community Leaders Mission is one of the most personal, intensive, and impactful programs that we do each year,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “Participants will spend these four days in Detroit’s inner city learning about the impact of poverty on hundreds of thousands of Detroit’s neediest citizens. We will meet with non-profits, activists, and government officials who are making a real difference in one of America’s poorest cities and are working to revitalize their community with new and inventive ideas. In past years, the African American and Jewish Community Leaders Mission has been to Birmingham and Montgomery, as well as two visits to New Orleans. This year, the JCPA hopes to help catalyze new relationships in Detroit, a city where challenges related to race and poverty are so keenly felt and where creative responses have emerged as beacons of hope. By learning from the experiences in Detroit together, our participants, representing Jewish and African American groups from their communities, will return home with a new sense of opportunity for cooperation and innovative approaches to fighting poverty.”
Gutow continued, “This is not a problem afflicting just one community. We are all saddened by it, and know we must lift up all of the underserved in our communities. But just as with challenges of the past, like the Civil Rights movement, we are stronger when acting in concert, when inspird to do right by learning and understanding the facts on the ground. The goal of having pairs of participants in this Mission is to strengthen those ties town by town, city by city. When our participants return to their home turfs, they will be able to tell their stories standing side by side, black and Jewish, with a friend and partner from the other community. The geographic, racial and religious diversity of the participants, united in their commitment to eliminating poverty, is what makes the Mission so successful.”
This year’s participants come from Detroit, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, Providence, Silicon Valley, New York, and Washington. Rabbi Gutow will be attending in partnership with Rev. Michael Livingston, Director of the Poverty Initiative of the National Council of Churches.
The African American / Jewish Community Leaders Mission is part of the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty campaign. The JCPA launched this initiative in 2007 to urge local, state, and national leaders to advance legislation and programs that help provide food, shelter, additional work, and educational opportunities for the nation’s most vulnerable. The JCPA’s efforts have led to an increased national commitment to reduce poverty and have inspired communities across the country to sponsor anti-poverty events and programs as part of the Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization and other initiatives.
For more information about the African American / Jewish Community Leaders Mission and the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty campaign, contact Ben Suarato at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.
Submitted Fri May 20 2011 16:35:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by Elyssa Koidin
10:15 AM May 20, 2011
On May 16th, the U.S. Treasury Department reached the $14.3 trillion limit on the amount the federal government can borrow, known as the debt limit. The debt is the total amount of money the government owes, made up of public debt and debt held by federal accounts (such as social security and Medicare). The debt ceiling is the total amount that the Treasury Department can borrow, which is set by Congress. It can be thought of as similar to the limit on a personal credit card. In a letter to Congress at the beginning of May, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner explained that the Treasury Department would take extraordinary measures to make sure the U.S. government has enough money to extend its borrowing until the beginning of August. By August 2nd Congress must vote to raise the debt ceiling or risk tremendous national and international fall out.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, “Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit—49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.” Despite this fact, a vocal opposition has arisen in Congress, speaking out against raising the debt ceiling. According to a National Priorities Project webinar on the subject, 68% of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling. But it is commonly believed that many are incorrectly confusing the issue of the federal deficit with the debt ceiling. Even if Congress enacted far reaching deficit reduction matters in the coming weeks, it would do little to get us out of our current debt problem.
Failing to raise the debt ceiling has catastrophic consequences. The Department of the Treasury states: “This would cause investors here and around the world to doubt, for the first time, whether the United States will meet its commitments. If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, the government would have to stop, limit, or delay payments on a broad range of legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and many other commitments. Defaulting on those legal obligations would cause severe hardship for American families. Additionally, it would call into question the full faith and credit of the Unites States government—a pillar of the global financial system. The ensuing financial crisis from a default would have catastrophic economic consequences, potentially including the loss of millions of American jobs.” The result on not raising the debt ceiling would be far worse and further reaching than the impact of a shutdown of the federal government.
Voices from across the political spectrum have supported raising the debt ceiling, including the Chamber of Commerce; former economic advisor to Vice President Biden and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Jared Bernstein; and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol. It is difficult to comprehend why some Congressional leaders would oppose raising the debt ceiling and put our financial and national security at such tremendous risk.
Some opponents of raising the debt ceiling have used this issue to force a more extreme agreement on deficit reduction legislation. According to the report, “Hitting the Debt Ceiling: A $14.3 Trillion Dilemma” released by Bloomberg Government, “Lawmakers may agree to raise the debt ceiling in conjunction with an agreement to address the growth of the debt through deficit-reduction measures. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives say they will not vote to increase the debt ceiling without a debt-reduction plan as part of the legislation.”
While the deficit reduction debate has taken shape, the JCPA has been advocating for the protection of human needs programs, including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, and Medicare, among others that greatly benefit vulnerable communities. We recognize the need to raise the debt ceiling but do not believe it should be at the cost of vital human needs programs. Both of these measures are important to our country’s economic future, but should not be pitted against each other. Both the raising of the debt ceiling and deficit reduction legislation should be given serious consideration and debated, but not necessarily in conjunction with each other.
The JCPA remains concerned with the direction deficit reduction talks are heading, especially with proposals that would put low-income programs such as housing assistance, Medicaid, and SNAP on the chopping block. As a Jewish community, we must advocate to protect these important programs while also encouraging our legislators to safeguard America’s financial standing in the world by raising the debt limit.
Submitted Fri Apr 15 2011 17:35:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by James Besser, The Jewish Week
I was wondering how Jewish progressives would respond to President Obama's big speech on deficit reduction on Wednesday – a speech that many critics called long on rhetoric, short on specifics.
Now we know; the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the beacon of progressive Jewish activism in Washington, wasn't too impressed.
In a statement, Rabbi David Saperstein, the RAC director, praised the President for rejecting “in no uncertain terms the most problematic parts” of a much tougher budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee, that would drastically alter Medicare and Medicaid.
“President Obama's solutions differ from Ryan's in their commitment to fairness and their willingness to raise additional revenue to climb out of the deficit crisis, while asserting the need for shared sacrifice in restoring fiscal order,” Saperstein said.
But then the “but” clause: “We must note, however, that while the President's rhetoric depicts a vision of America steeped in the twin goals of economic justice and fiscal soundness, his policy prescriptions would not adequately bring that vision to fruition. Eschewing, rightly, the House leadership's preference to seek savings by shifting costs and risk to individuals, he offered insufficient alternatives.”
In particular, the RAC is unhappy that Obama did not call for an immediate repeal of tax cuts for Americans earning more than $200,000.
And Obama called for cuts to non-defense discretionary spending that “total nearly twice the cuts as those he proposes for the defense budget, even though defense accounts for 20 percent of the budget,” Saperstein said. “A plan skewed so heavily in favor of non-defense discretionary spending cuts over revenue increases and defense cuts raises serious concerns over whether the plan is equal to the task of arresting record growth in poverty and inequality—the hallmarks of this recession.”
With Obama essentially moving the goal posts in the budget debate by accepting many GOP-pushed cuts and proposing huge ones of his own, the RAC will have its work cut out for it in the coming months.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which is continuing its big anti-poverty drive, took a slightly different approach – avoiding hot button issues like taxes but focusing on defending specific programs.
In a letter to Congress this week, the group said that “While there are certainly human services programs that may no longer be needed in 2011, some that are under consideration for cuts are very important to safeguard the most vulnerable in our communities. For this reason, we believe it is crucial that you support sufficient discretionary spending to fund human needs programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Community Services Block Grant program, the Social Services Block Grant, and Sections 202, 811, and 8 housing. These programs help states, localities, and nonprofits better serve those in need.”
The group also urged Congress to approve “sufficient federal funding to help repair our nation’s public education system, strengthen child care programs, reinforce anti-hunger and nutrition programs, provide access to employment and training programs, support access to higher education through Pell Grants and address the long-term challenges of caring for older Americans.”
On Thursday JCPA convened its third National Hunger Seder on Capitol Hill, led by Rabbi Steve Gutow, the JCPA president. It was one of more than 40 such events nationwide to foster coalitions around the issue of combating poverty.
Hunger is “an unacceptable condition in every community, one which demands an urgent response,” Gutow said.
Attending were several members of Congress and administration officials.
One more point about the President's deficit speech at George Washington University this week: almost unnoticed by the pundits (this one included) was Obama's defense of foreign aid, a topic most lawmakers would rather not talk about these days.
"Because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse –that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices,” he said. “Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about percent of our entire budget."
That will make pro-Israel groups happy.
Nobody expects big cuts in Israel's aid, but Jewish groups dread the prospect of huge cuts to the rest of the foreign aid program, which would make Israels share – the biggest, by far – stand out even more than it already does.
Sounds like the President is going to make defense of the aid program a priority.
Submitted Thu Mar 31 2011 16:43:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
by Elyssa Koidin
01:51 PM Mar 31, 2011
In late February, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, a far-reaching piece of legislation that sets out to cut $61 billion in spending from the remainder of the FY2011 budget. The draconian cuts incorporated in this bill include the elimination of such programs as Title X (family planning), the Green Jobs Innovation Fund, Americorp, and Hunger-Free Communities. Even more programs are seriously reduced such as LIHEAP (a program that provides heating and cooling assistance to low-income people), WIA (the Workforce Investment Act, which serves 9 million people in finding jobs and providing them with job training), community health centers, housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) programs, and Headstart. If signed in to law, H.R. 1 would cost America about 700,000 jobs.
A new study released by the Coalition on Human Needs illustrates the seriousness of these cuts and what is at risk if the leadership in the House is successful with this piece of legislation:
218,000 young children would not be able to receive Headstart.
9.4 million college students would lose some or all of their Pell Grants.
81,000 low-income people, mostly seniors and some children, would no longer receive food packages through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
10,000 people with significant long-term disabilities would lose their rental assistance; most of these people would lose their homes.
Though claiming they are trying to balance the budget and cut the deficit, supporters of H.R. 1, propose devastating cuts that would disproportionately impact low-income people and the programs that serve them. Even more so, those who are just barely able to keep their heads above water run the risk of falling below the poverty line, when the programs they desperately depend on are taken away. Creating more poor Americans is no way to heal the economy.
The FY2011 continuing resolution has already gone through a number of short-term extensions, the most recent of which will expire on April 8th. Congress is currently at a standstill. The House wants to only pass far-reaching, drastic spending cuts. The Senate is deeply divided and the areas of compromise between the two chambers and the White House have been used up. If a new compromise is not reached in the next week, we are once again facing the possibility of a government shutdown.
It is reprehensible for supporters of H.R.1 to think the best possible way to balance our budget is on the backs of the most vulnerable. In years past, when deficit reduction proposals have been put in place, protections have been made for low-income programs. Such an agreement should be made now. The JCPA believes strongly in helping those in need and protecting the most vulnerable among us. In no way does legislation like H.R. 1 strike a moral or economically wise chord.
Whatever ends up happening with the FY2011 spending bill is bound to have a direct effect on the FY2012 budget. President Obama released his proposed budget in February. In the coming weeks, Chairman Ryan (WI-1) will introduce his budget bill in the House.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Jewish Federations of North America are circulating a sign-on letter to the Jewish community in anticipation of the introduction of budget bills in Congress. We urge Jewish organizations, including national agencies, local Jewish federations, CRCs, affiliated social service agencies, Jewish foundations, and synagogues to sign-on to this letter. To join our effort, please respond to Emily Kaplan by close of business on April 7, 2011.
If you have any questions about these issues please contact Elyssa Koidin.
Submitted Fri Feb 25 2011 16:45:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
by Elyssa Koidin
10:24 AM Feb 25, 2011
This past year we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark piece of civil rights legislation made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. Still, many of the goals set up in the original legislation have yet to be realized and it remains a sad reality that Americans with disabilities face specific social and economic challenges in this country. This is especially true when discussing the related factors of disability and poverty.
According to a September 2009 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Nearly two-thirds of working-age adults who experience consistent income poverty—more than 36 months of income poverty during a 48-month period—have one or more disabilities. People with disabilities are much more likely to experience various forms of material hardship—including food insecurity, not getting needed medical or dental care, and not being able to pay rent, mortgage, and utility bills—than people without disabilities, even after controlling for income and other characteristics.” The income poverty rate for persons with disabilities is between two and three times the rate for persons without disabilities. The rate might be even higher since many poverty measures do not take into account the added costs of having a disability.
As part of Jewish Disability Awareness Month this February, the JCPA co-sponsored a Hill briefing with our partners at the RAC and the Jewish Federation of North America, where the issue of employment among the disabled was discussed. It is believed that the systemic barriers to employment that many people with disabilities face are a leading contributor to the high rate of poverty among this population. In January 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force was 21.8% compared to 70.1% for people with no disabilities.
A good, stable job means decent pay for people with disabilities, which can assist in alleviating many of the economic hardships this population faces in terms of healthcare, housing, and hunger. The Arc, an organization that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has found that there are a number of systemic factors that contribute to the disparity in employment among the disabled:
Transition- Students with disabilities are frequently not prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. Youth with disabilities often need extra supports throughout their transition period from school to employment and community living. Students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are required by law to have transition plans beginning at age 16. However many needed transition services, such as school-based preparatory experiences, career preparation and work-based learning experiences are never provided. This is an issue that can be addressed in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and future reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Training and Supports- State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs can provide a wide variety of services and supports that an individual with a disability may require to find and maintain employment, including job search and placement assistance, vocational training, assistive technology, and supported employment services. Like many services currently suffering in this budget crisis, state VR programs are underfunded and therefore cannot meet the employment needs of the hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities who could benefit from these services.
Many individuals with disabilities could also greatly benefit from the employment and training serviced delivered through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Physical and programmatic access to WIA services is woefully lacking for individuals with disabilities, despite federal requirements that such services be accessible. This is a problem that can be fixed when WIA is hopefully reauthorized later this year. That said, WIA is facing a major budget battle in the coming weeks. The House-passed continuing resolution plans to severely cut WIA funding, leading to the shutdown of 3,000 One Stop shops, which serves as the main mechanism for carrying out job training, searches, and other programs. The WIA funding must be protected now in order to make improvements that could benefit more people with disabilities later.
Segregated Employment- In 2007, only 26% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who were in paid or unpaid employment were working in integrated employment settings. The rest were supported in sheltered employment, day habilitation services, or non-work community integration programs.
Wages-The Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay less than the minimum wage to people with disabilities if they follow detailed procedures. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, nearly 424,000 individuals are earning subminimum wages and 74% of these workers are people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. GAO also notes that 50% of workers earn $2.50 an hour or less and many work part time. Payment of the subminimum wage is controversial in the disability community and ending the practice would entail multiple and comprehensive policy reforms and service delivery expansions.
Work Disincentives- Many people with disabilities believe they cannot work or they will lose their health benefits. Although work incentives are available under the Social Security Act, most people with disabilities are not aware of or do not understand those programs.
Clearly more public education is needed on this subject since, according to the latest census, 50 million Americans have some sort of a disability. Removing barriers to employment not only could benefit these particular individuals, but assist in the recovery of our ailing economy. The Jewish community can do a better job of incorporating the needs of the disabled community when we discuss employment, poverty, and human needs issues with our elected officials.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month will be held in October. Members of the faith community are collecting signatures for a statement of solidarity. The JCPA has signed on and encourages local organizations to sign on as well.
For more information on Jewish Disability Awareness month please see this great resource released by the Jewish Federations of North America.
Submitted Thu Feb 10 2011 16:46:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
by JCPA and COEJL staff
02:58 PM Feb 10, 2011
This week's Confronting Poverty is a joint effort by the JCPA and COEJL
In President Obama’s State of the Union address last month, the President discussed a number of ways he will try to revitalize the U.S. economy and put Americans back to work. He discussed the creation of jobs in the infrastructure, healthcare, and education fields, but focused most on the potential for our economy from innovations and investments in clean energy. President Obama discussed a variety of ways we can green our economy and build up our workforce. But a new workforce requires training so that skilled workers can adapt to newer forms of technology, construction, transportation, and manufacturing.
This week organizations, union leaders, business leaders, and environmentalists from around the country will be gathering in Washington for the Blue Green Alliance’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. The JCPA and COEJL are co-conveners of this conference. One topic of conversation bound to be discussed is how we put Americans back to work while training them to take part in the new green economy?
One solution is the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), set to be reauthorized this year. WIA authorizes the nation’s federally funded workforce development system and provides funding for “one-stop” career centers in which employers and job seekers can access a wide array of employment and training services. Title I of WIA is of priority to the JCPA and COEJL because it targets adults, dislocated works, and youth, including a focus on populations that are hardest hit by the economy. Services under WIA Title I range from information about careers and the local job market, to job search assistance, to training services for occupational skills and on-the-job training. Traditionally, WIA services have focused on short-term crisis intervention. A report by the Center for American Progress states that WIA services focus on “helping people re-enter the workforce quickly rather than counseling workers and helping them receive the training and education they need to find a long-term, well-paying job.”
One way to guarantee that someone is entering a long-term career it to make sure the training they receive corresponds to the jobs that are out there and to the current economy. Clean energy and green jobs are part of an emerging field that will need many well-trained workers. Clean energy has positive environmental, security, and economic benefits for the U.S., which is why many consider this area a wise investment. If we are to reach the goals that President Obama set out in his State of the Union, we need to start training workers now—not just young students in high school and college, but also those that have been dislocated because of the loss of manufacturing jobs and the collapse of the real estate market.
WIA funds can be used to start training these workers and creating the skill sets needed to enter (or re-enter) the job market. There are a variety of opportunities to work with state and local workforce investment boards, educational institutions, labor unions, and businesses to train people in:
Construction- retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient and construction that uses nontoxic and energy efficient techniques
The creation of energy efficient automobiles and the creation of more efficient public transportation
Waste and water management
WIA funds have already been used in the area of green jobs during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). For example in June 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger, through ARRA funding, awarded $10 million to eleven programs in California. The programs trained 1,500 at-risk youth for technical, construction, and other skilled-jobs in “environmentally-friendly” industries. In the California Green Jobs Corps, each program operated as a partnership between workforce investment boards, community colleges, non-profits, and private sector employers.
This funding was a onetime occurrence through ARRA. But its success can be magnified if similar types of government support are created in the WIA reauthorization bill. The long-lasting effects will substantially benefit low-and moderate-income workers who require on-the-job training and services for today’s economy. If the goal is to create long-term jobs, support for well-developed training should be a Congressional priority and the WIA is an important way to get us there.