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Today in Equity

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Daily equity news

Road Home program amended to assist owners of homes of modest value,” - The Times-Picayune

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan came to town carrying a letter that could help thousands of area homeowners finally finish their renovations.

The letter, which Donovan gave on Thursday to Louisiana Recovery Authority head Paul Rainwater, approved a change to the Road Home program that could distribute $600 million in leftover program money, giving up to $34,000 in extra grant money to as many as 19,000 low- to moderate-income homeowners, Rainwater said.

States eager to power up electric car-battery industry,” - USA TODAY

DETROIT — The U.S. government has made it clear that developing a domestic auto-battery industry — for advanced batteries to power next-generation electric cars — is a priority. That has states scrambling to be sure they get a piece of the action.

This week, business leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs will gather in Detroit at a conference called “The Business of Plugging In” to discuss the future of plug-in electrics and plan how to attract and develop businesses involved in plug-in vehicle development.

Public option gains support,” - Washington Post

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.

Americans remain sharply divided about the overall packages moving closer to votes in Congress and President Obama’s leadership on the issue, reflecting the partisan battle that has raged for months over the administration’s top legislative priority. But sizable majorities back two key and controversial provisions: both the so-called public option and a new mandate that would require all Americans to carry health insurance.

Written by Keith Forest

October 20th, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Today in Equity

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Daily equity news

Grass Roots Put New Orleans Back on Its Feet,” - The Wall Street Journal
With Federal Aid Finally Flowing to Hurricane-Ravaged City, a Flurry of Rebuilding Helps Shield It from U.S. Downturn

NEW ORLEANS — This once-ravaged city is finally mending from Hurricane Katrina after years of administrative delays and political disputes that choked the flow of millions of dollars in federal aid.

Money now flowing through the city is beginning to deliver the most visibly widespread improvements since Katrina struck four years ago today. Scores of public works projects are under way. The last police precinct using a FEMA trailer as temporary headquarters moved into real offices earlier this year. More than half the public schools in New Orleans have been turned into higher-performing charter schools. Returning residents have pushed the population to 76% of its prestorm total of about 455,000.

Yes, We Can Afford Health-Care Reform,” - Washington Post

“Moderate” opponents of health-care reform like to say that we cannot afford it, particularly in the midst of a recession that has widened the deficit with both reduced tax revenue and the fiscal stimulus package. This was the argument advanced by Sen. Joe Lieberman on TV a week ago and repeated by Michael Gerson in this newspaper: “Obama’s massive spending, intended to stabilize the economy, also drained the Treasury, making it more difficult to propose major new expenditures.”

 ”Report maps out solutions to child obesity,” -  USA TODAY

To make it easier for children to eat healthfully and move more, local governments in towns and cities across the country need to help create a better environment, a new report says.

Children and their families should have access to grocery stores that offer plenty of healthful food such as fruits and vegetables, and schools shouldn’t be surrounded by fast-food restaurants. Children should be able to ride their bikes or walk safely to school, and they should have safe places to play afterward, says the report out today from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council.

Written by Keith Forest

September 1st, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Experts See “Uneven” Housing Recovery in Gulf Coast

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NEW ORLEANS — Nearly four years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, housing for the Gulf Coast’s most vulnerable residents remains scarce and continues to mar other significant progress made in the region so far, experts told a Congressional field hearing yesterday and today.

While community groups and local leaders have made enormous strides in rebuilding and reclaiming many neighborhoods throughout the Gulf Coast, federal and state aid programs — most notably the Road Home program — have failed to live up to their promise.

“The progress of housing recovery at the community level has been very uneven and has led to racial and social inequities,” Dominique Duval-Diop, senior associate in the PolicyLink office in New Orleans, said at Thursday’s hearing. “We may have missed the opportunity to create sustainable and resilient communities — communities that are able to initiate and invest in their own recovery and redevelopment.”

The Congressional field hearings are being conducted by Rep. Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity. The hearings will continue place today at Lawless Memorial Chapel, Dillard University, 2601 Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans.

Other experts who testified included:

  • Davida Finger of Loyola Law Clinic
  • Allison Plyer of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center
  • Laura Tuggle of Southeast Louisiana Legal Aid
  • James Perry of Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center
  • Cynthia Wiggins, a public housing resident
  • Angela Patterson of Unity of Greater New Orleans
  • Anita Sinha of the Advancement Project

The experts look at a wide range of issues, including:

  • The difficulty homeowners faced in navigating the Road Home program
  • Significant New Orleans rent increases since 2005
  • Ongoing difficulty for elderly, disabled, and low-income households who formerly lived in HUD-assisted homes that have still not been replaced
  • Fair housing violations that are prevalent post-Katrina.
  • The growth in the homeless population from 6000 to 12,000 since Katrina.

In 2007 and 2008, PolicyLink undertook major studies of the three major housing rebuilding programs: the Road Home homeowners program; the Multifamily Rental Program (funded through Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Disaster CDBG funds); and the Small Rental Repair Program.  Significant challenges remain in each of those programs.

In particular, the Road Home grant formula has had a more negative effect on those whose damage estimates were higher than their home value. Those whose damages were greater than their pre-storm home value - 47.3% of all applicants rebuilding in place - fell on average $69,000 short of the money they need to rebuild.

This was a particular problem in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods in New Orleans. More than 60 percent of households in New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward have gaps over $40,000, compared to 49 percent citywide and 33 percent statewide. The average rebuilding cost gap for those communities were $65,000 and $68,000, respectively — a mammoth sum for low-income residents struggling to come home.

But insufficient government programs are far from residents’ only concerns, Duval-Diop says.

“Many recipients face insufficient rebuilding grants, contractor fraud, a high-cost environment, inability to access additional credit, and home-title succession challenges that delay or deny funding for the home repair.,” she said. “Our analysis found that the

majority of homeowners choosing to rebuild in place did not have sufficient resources to fully recover their homes.”

For more information on Gulf Coast rebuilding, please visit

Written by Dan Lavoie

August 21st, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Today in Equity

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Daily equity news

Tennessee Experiment’s High Cost Fuels Health-Care Debate,” - The Wall Street Journal

In 1994, Tennessee launched an ambitious public insurance program to cover its uninsured. The plan, TennCare, fulfilled that mission but nearly bankrupted the state in the process.

 ”Poll: 57% don’t see stimulus working,” - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Six months after President Obama launched a $787 billion plan to right the nation’s economy, a majority of Americans think the avalanche of new federal aid has cost too much and done too little to end the recession.

 ”New Orleans Neighborhood Housing Services to run $20 million home repair effort,” - The Times-Picayune

The city is negotiating a deal with the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services to run a home-repair program that would make nearly $20 million available to owners of storm-damaged property, according to a recent city memo describing the proposal.

Written by Keith Forest

August 18th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Today in Equity

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Daily equity news

First Lady Steps Into Policy Spotlight in Debate on Health Care,” -  The New York Times

WASHINGTON — She has become one of the Obama administration’s most visible surrogates on health care, announcing the release of $851 million in federal financing for health clinics, calling for tougher nutritional standards in the government’s school lunch program and urging Democrats to rally around the president’s efforts to revamp health care.

The high-profile emissary? Not Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, or Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health policy adviser. It is the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Highway spending isn’t the stimulus it was envisioned to be,” - Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — In February, when Congress approved President Obama’s mammoth plan to stimulate the economy, transportation projects were supposed to be among the fastest-acting pieces of the $787-billion package.

All 50 states moved quickly to qualify for their share of the money. But since then the pace has slowed considerably, particularly in California and Florida, where the effect of the economic crisis has been especially severe.

Orleans Wants Ex-Residents Counted,” - The Wall Street Journal
Census Bureau Says Mayor’s Plan to Boost Numbers Is Illegal

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is calling on former residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to claim their old city addresses in next year’s census, drawing criticism for trying to circumvent rules for winning federal funds.

The mayor — encouraged that New Orleans has thrown off its post-Katrina malaise to become the U.S.’s fastest-growing big city by percentage — wants the U.S. Census Bureau to grant an exception for its former residents, currently living elsewhere, who want to rebuild homes in New Orleans.

Written by Keith Forest

July 20th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Did you miss these? (June 6, 2009)

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This week’s update on equity news. 

Administration to Reveal Plans for Katrina Housing Transition,” - Washington Post

The Obama administration will announce plans today to virtually give away roughly 1,800 mobile homes to 3,400 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina who are living in government-provided housing along the Gulf Coast, officials said.

The administration also will make available $50 million in rental vouchers to income-eligible trailer occupants who move to targeted housing projects, and take over from Louisiana the job of helping residents find permanent homes, said a senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the formal announcement.

Measure would help promote groceries in ‘food deserts’,” - Chicago Tribune

The effort to bring more grocery stores to low-income areas–so-called “food deserts”–would receive a shot in the arm from legislation passed this week by the Illinois General Assembly.

The $3.1 billion public spending bill passed Monday includes $10 million for the Illinois Fresh Food Fund, money that would go to urban and rural neighborhoods with reduced access to healthier foods because they’re underserved by supermarkets.

States, Nonprofits Jockey for ‘Weatherizing’ Funds,” -  The Wall Street Journal

HOUSTON — President Barack Obama wants to make a million houses a year more energy efficient as part of his goal to create thousands of “green” jobs and reduce U.S. carbon emissions.

But the administration’s push to expand an obscure antipoverty program into a centerpiece of that initiative is stirring debate over the best way to use a flash flood of federal stimulus dollars.

Thousands to Protest Jindal Stimulus Rejection

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bobby JindalThousands of Louisianans are expected to descend on the state capitol May 27 to say “enough is enough” to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reject $100 million in unemployment benefits from the stimulus package. For those hit “first and worst” by the recession, the problem got even worse today as the state legislature couldn’t muster the votes to override his decision.This is a looming disaster for folks who’ve had too much disaster in their lives already.

Want to go to the rally or get your voice heard from afar? Full release after the jump….


Written by Dan Lavoie

May 13th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

“The Wire” Heads to New Orleans

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The folks who brought you “The Wire”–  everyone’s-favorite-show-of-all-time-anywhere-ever-no-really-you-have-to-watch-it-like-now — are moving their act down to New Orleans.

HBO just greenlit “Treme,” a series from producers David Simon and Eric Overmeyer and starring Wire alum/New Orleans native Wendell Pierce. The show, which will start taping in the fall and air next spring, will:

[C]enter on New Orleans residents — including musicians and a restauranteur –living in the city’s Treme district. Show follows the characters as they look to reclaim their lives as the city continues to rebuild.

“It will be uplifting at points, and may make viewers a little angry at points,” Simon said. “And at another point it will make viewers a little depressed.”

Simon said he and Overmyer, who lives in New Orleans, had been in love with the city long before the storm — but post-Katrina, knew there was a story to be told.

But, Simon warns, this won’t be “The Bayou Wire”and will have a broader, less overtly politically perspective:

Simon noted that there’s even perhaps the story of New Orleans can be used as a metaphor for the country’s current economic woes.

“Look at what happened down there after Katrina,” he said. “A lot of things in which New Orleans depended on and trusted turned out to be wholly undependable and untrustworthy. The governing institutions were supposed to monitor things of actual construct like the levees and the pumping stations. That could be an allegory for what we Americans presumed about our financial institutions, and the governing bodies that were supposed to monitor them.

“New Orleans found itself on its ass some years ago, and the rest of the country stared at it as it it was a unique case,” Simon said. “In some sense, Katrina is an outwire of what the rest of the country was going to experience.”

If you want to see what Simon thinks about the state of the nation, check out this really great interview he did recently on Bill Moyers show:


Written by Dan Lavoie

May 6th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Did you miss these? (April 25, 2009)

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Updates on this week’s updates equity news.

 ”An Effort to Save Flint, Mich., by Shrinking It,” - The New York Times

FLINT, Mich. — Dozens of proposals have been floated over the years to slow this city’s endless decline. Now another idea is gaining support: speed it up.

Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods.

Health, education cited as poverty breaker,” - AP

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Investing up front in early education programs and health care for children would save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the long run and help break the poverty cycle affecting millions of kids, a leading child advocate said Tuesday.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund, said it’s one of her group’s goals to end child poverty in this country in “five or six years” and work to dismantle the so-called “cradle-to-prison pipeline” plaguing minorities and the poor.

 ”New Orleans housing project is model for recovery,” - USA TODAY

NEW ORLEANS — Wendell Pierce, an actor best known for his role at Detective William “Bunk” Moreland on HBO’s The Wire, splits a lot of his time lately between Los Angeles and his hometown of New Orleans.

Pierce wants to make sure his push to rebuild one of the city’s most flood-wrecked neighborhoods — Pontchartrain Park — succeeds. The neighborhood of 1,000 homes was slammed with up to 10 feet of floodwater in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina and has been slow to rebound. Now a grass-roots plan that partners residents with the city is about to return the neighborhood to its mid-1950s splendor, developers and residents say.

Did you miss these? (November 15, 2008)

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A recap of this week’s equity news

 ”Obama made inroads with white voters except in Deep South,” - The Times-Picayune

Before Election Day, there was widespread suspicion that enough white voters would balk at voting for an African-American candidate for president that the polls would be proved wrong.

It didn’t turn out that way.

Barack Obama won a convincing popular and electoral victory Tuesday. According to exit polls, the Illinois senator did better with white voters than the past two Democratic nominees, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore, did in the 2004 and 2000 elections.

Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods,” - Washington Post

Tommy Cornelius and the other members of the Piedmont High School boys water polo team never expected to find themselves running through school in their Speedos to promote a bake sale across the street. But times have been tough since the school banned homemade brownies and cupcakes.

The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.

Working Poor and Young Hit Hard in Downturn,” - New York Times

Harvey Shaw’s plans to move out of his parents’ house, finally, have been derailed. With a high school degree obtained belatedly at 21, he had held a full-time job for 26 months as a detailer at a car dealership here, sprucing up new and used cars.
But in early October, Mr. Shaw, now 24, recalled, “I came back from vacation, and they said they were cutting back and replacing me with part-time workers.”