A Paycheck Away from Financial Catastrophe

Anne Price, Medium

Two weeks ago, following the longest government shutdown in U.S history, hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors headed back to work after going 35 days without pay. For some employees relief will come in the form of a paycheck and back pay, however, many federal contractors (almost 2 million of whom earn less than $12 an hour) may not get paid for the days they lost.

This latest government shutdown brings to the forefront what so many American workers feel everyday, even some of those who are in the middle or upper middle class. Too many among us are just a missed paycheck or two from financial catastrophe.

The devastating effects of disrupted income were felt by most federal workers, but were even more painful for the nearly half of federal workers who are sole earners, and the close to 40% who have children. Financial hardship is also experienced by Black and Latino workers who make up nearly 20% and 9% of the federal workforce, respectively, and are often on the low end of the government pay scale.

Some workers took to Twitter under the #shutdownstories hashtag to share their stories of hardship and strategies for survival during the furlough. We learned about their decisions to forgo doctor’s appointments, cut back on critical medication, skip meals, rely on food banks, launch GoFundMe campaigns to cover basic expenses, borrow money from friends and family, deplete savings, and dip into retirement accounts just to scrape by.

Yet these are not extraordinary measures — in fact, these strategies have become all too commonplace among everyday workers who experience an economic shock due to an employer suddenly changing or cutting shifts or hours, or unexpected layoffs.

Click here to read the full feature on Medium.

Past the Drought: Overcoming Barriers to Economic Security in California’s Central Valley

Past the Drought: Overcoming Barriers to Economic Security in California’s Central Valley, a report released by the Insight Center in partnership with the California Asset Building Coalition, examines why so many workers in the Central Valley of California are struggling to afford their basic needs.

Nestled in the heart of California, the Central Valley bears a legacy of racial and cultural diversity that has made it one of the world’s greatest agriculture and production centers. This sprawling geographic area – including the counties of Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Tulare, and Kings – grows over half of all fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the United States.

Despite decades of rich contributions to the state’s economic growth, the Valley is the poorest region in California, with nearly 4 out of every 10 households unable to afford basic needs. Every day, Central Valley workers and families grapple with where to live, how to get to work, and whether they can support their loved ones.

The region’s households of color, immigrants, and women face an even greater risk of economic insecurity, even when one is working – and, often, working multiple jobs – to make ends meet. What’s more, the Valley is often left out of a policy agenda dominated by the Bay Area and other metropolitan regions – making it even more difficult for communities to identify resources, strategies, and partners dedicated to improving the economic outcomes of the region, its neighborhoods, and its families.

Using Insight’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for California, the report highlights key findings and offers recommendations for change so that all Central Valley residents have the opportunity to thrive.

Click here to view and download Past the Drought: Overcoming Barriers to Economic Security in California’s Central Valley.

Opinion: End criminal justice fees that harm minorities and poor

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Theresa Zhen | The Mercury News

The Bay Area is known for its progressive values. We view ourselves as committed to ensuring everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is safe, economically secure and able to reach their full potential.

In line with these values, San Francisco recently took a groundbreaking step forward by eliminating administrative criminal justice fees that are largely uncollectable and cause undue harm to communities of color and low-income communities.

It’s time for Alameda County to step up and do the same.

Charged to people who have already paid their debt to society, criminal justice administrative fees serve no formal punitive function and are often assigned to people who simply cannot afford to pay them.

In Alameda County, there is an outstanding debt of over $21 million owed by more than 35,000 individuals. The fees range from charging $450 to people who used a public defender for motions, trials or other evidentiary proceedings for a misdemeanor case, to fees for probation supervision, for example, which are $90 a month, or $6,100 for the average probationer per case.

Such crippling fees force families who are already financially stressed to make untenable choices between paying court-ordered fees or covering basic expenses, like feeding their children. They therefore often end up with insurmountable, uncollectible debt.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

Digging Deeper on the “Tools that Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor”

In mid-September, Insight president Anne Price had the pleasure of sitting down with Virginia Eubanks, an associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, SUNY, to discuss her work and her new book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor.

Virginia has worked as a welfare rights advocate and spent the past several years examining how automated social exclusion is growing by the use of predictive models and algorithms that are replacing or augmenting human decision-making in our social welfare system.

Click here to read excerpts from their conversation.

 

Why a Social Wealth Fund Must Account for Racial Inequity

By Anne Price and Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Medium

There has never been a more critical, more insistent time to reimagine and implement economic policies to address the rise of extreme racial and economic inequality, and change the rules that govern power and the concentration of wealth.

Wealth — what you own minus what you owe — acts as the buffer between temporary setback and economic catastrophe; it allows us to live and retire with dignity and security. Without savings or wealth of some form, economic stability is built on a house of cards that quickly crumbles when income is cut or disrupted through job loss, reduced work hours or wages, or if families suffer from an unexpected health emergency.

The difference in wealth holdings between the ultra-wealthy and everybody else continues to widen. Today, about 160,000 U.S. households own more wealth than the poorest 90 percent combined. And the differences in wealth between whites and people of color is at its highest level in 25 years. In 2016, the typical white household held $171,000 in wealth — 10 times that of the typical Black household, and about 8 times that of Latinx households.

We can and must steer our economy to create a just and fair society that tackles inequality and climate change, and empowers each American to share in the investments that are now hoarded by a select few. The public wealth fund is one key model that has drawn increased study as a way to address these issues.

Click here to read the full article.

It’s Bigger Than Bail

By Anne Price, Medium

Our criminal justice system is broken. Reforming, fixing or better yet reimagining how we think about safety and justice in America is imperative in our work toward racial and economic justice. All across the country, grassroots organizations led by communities of color, women, advocates and progressive policymakers are shedding light on how our current system perpetuates racial and economic inequities, and are joining campaigns to eradicate fines and fees, mandatory sentencing requirements and money bail.

What is becoming increasingly evident, is that we must ground our work in a proactive vision of what safety, justice, and liberation means to us versus focusing on ending a specific practice. This week’s legislation to end money bail in California is a prime example of this need.

A few days ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 (SB10) to end the heinous system of money bail in California. While this seems like a great win, the legislation actually replaces money bail with racially bias risk assessments and a subjective evaluation process giving too much power to the discretion of judges and prosecutors, who studies show are prone to implicit racial bias. We’ve effectively replaced one terrible practice with yet another one that will continue to harm Black and Brown communities. For more on the problems with Senate Bill 10, read our Director of Policy and Research Jacob Denney’s piece on this matter.

Click here to read the full feature.

SB10 Will Hurt, Not Help

By Jacob Denney, Medium

This week, California legislatures moved forward in passing Senate Bill 10 to eliminate money bail. While eliminating money bail is desperately needed to fix our broken criminal justice system, the bill as it stands now will do nothing to disrupt the legacy of racial and economic injustice that has shaped our state’s criminal justice system. In fact, the bill will likely ensure a continuance of that legacy.

To be clear, we must get rid of money bail in order to address the deep inequities of our current criminal justice system. Money bail disproportionately punishes people with low incomes and people of color. It creates a two-tiered system of justice, one where those who can afford it are released from pretrial incarceration and everyone else is trapped in jail, unable to work, support their families, or assist in their own defense. This system reduces economic stability, particularly for families who are already struggling, and destroys thousands of people’s lives in California every year. Senate Bill 10 is likely to do the exact same thing.

Senate Bill 10 would replace the discriminatory money bail system with a new structure where anyone accused of a crime can be held pretrial, regardless of the circumstances. Dubbed “preventive detention,” this discretionary evaluation process would enable judges and prosecutors to hold people accused of crimes in jail with remarkable ease. This means that more, rather than fewer, Californians would likely end up behind bars while waiting for trial.

Click here to read Jacob’s full op-ed.

City Visions | KALW Radio Program

Anne Price, alongside Chris Hoene, Executive Director of the California Budget & Policy Center, and Taylor Jo Isenberg, Managing Director of the Economic Security Project, explored the promise of universal basic income in California on KALW City Vision radio program.

The three shared their knowledge and research to answer the following:

  • Are monthly cash transfers the social safety net of the future — addressing poverty, racial inequity and automation-induced job losses?
  • Or, is basic income just a costly addition to our current, some would say failing, social assistance programs?
  • And more from listeners who called in to ask their specific questions!

Click here to listen to the full conversation.

A True Reconciliation: Addressing Our Nation’s Social Safety Net

By Anne Price, Medium

Last week, remarks from a Minnesota lawmaker surfaced in which he was reported as referring to people receiving public benefits as “parasites” and “scoundrels.” The Congressman also suggested that Black people on public assistance have substituted “one plantation for another.” While stoking fears and fueling divisiveness through degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric have become startlingly commonplace under the current Administration, the blatant use of language that strips the poor and people of color of their basic humanity is long-standing.

Nour Kteily, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies our ability to see each other as human, found that many people are capable of othering and it’s not uncommon for them to compare other groups to animals or lower life forms than human beings. Both our history and cognitive research show that when we refer to people as “parasites,” “takers” and “animals,” it activates a mental switch in our brains that can provoke hostility and antipathy towards others.

Dehumanization is linked to support for policies that punish or exclude marginalized people in our social safety net system, including programs like Food Stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. A new study from UC Berkeley and Stanford University shows a causal relationship between attitudes to public assistance and threatened racial status. Researchers found that racial resentment increases and support for social safety net declines in selected periods, like after the Great Recession and the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Racial resentment is heightened when whites fear that their population is declining or their status is being threatened, and thus call for deeper cuts in social safety net programs. Researchers discovered that whites also support cuts if they perceive those programs are primarily helping people of color.

Although it won’t be easy, we have the capacity to forge greater compassion and understanding to address our social safety net system protecting those most vulnerable in our society.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Seeding a Generation with Wealth

An Interview with Anne Price, BlackHer


Building our personal, economic, and political power by getting educated and organized, and taking action for progressive change, that’s what we’re all about at BlackHer!

This week we were thrilled to catch up with Anne Price, president and CEO of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.  The Insight Center is “a national research and economic justice organization working to ensure that all people become and remain economically secure.”

Me:  Anne, I’m so excited to connect with you.  I’m so impressed with your research on the racial wealth gap.  There is so much focus on income inequality in the U.S.  While that is an important issue to address, why we don’t hear more about the gaping wealth gap between Black and white folks?

Anne: Part of the reason that we’ve focused on the income gap and wage disparities for so many years is that data on wages is readily available.

Click here to read the full interview.