As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.
Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.
During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.
Today’s question is, “Do you consider the operation of health clinics to be an acceptable function of municipal government?”
A nonpartisan think tank that advocates for poor and working class families is urging that Ohio adopt its own version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The group, Policy Matters Ohio, said a state version of the federal tax credit, set at 10 percent, would divert just $210 million from Ohio’s coffers but would benefit 949,000 low-income working families across the state. Such a credit would provide families with an average of $221 each, which Policy Matters Ohio described as “modest but helpful.”
Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have Earned Income Tax Credits, ranging from 3.5 percent to 50 percent of the federal credit.
“A state EITC program enables families to work and build assets while reducing the impact of regressive income tax changes,” said a statement released by Policy Matters Ohio.
“A state EITC makes sense because recent changes to the personal income tax have provided greater tax reductions for higher-income earners than they have for lower- and middle-income families,” the statement continued.
The federal EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and medium-income individuals and couples, and is considered the nation’s largest poverty relief program. When the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who qualify and claim the credit.
To qualify for the EITC, a recipient must have earned income of $49,000 or less. The credit is worth significantly more for families with children and is refundable, which means families receive cash refunds above their tax liability.
Created in 1975, the federal EITC is aimed at helping lift families with children about the poverty level, along with offsetting the burden of Social Security taxes and maintaining an incentive for people to work.
In Ohio, 949,692 people currently claim the federal EITC. The credit generates $2.1 billion for state residents, and the average refund is $2,211.
Founded in 2000, Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization that seeks to create “a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio,” through research and policy advocacy.
Based in Cleveland and Columbus, the organization is funded primarily through grants from groups like the Ford Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Corp. for Enterprise Development and others.
With a temporary boost to the federal food stamp program coming to an end this November, more than 1.8 million Ohioans — 16 percent of the state’s population — will receive significantly less food aid, according to an Aug. 2 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
The report calculates that the cut is the equivalent to taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four. After the cut, the food stamp program will provide each person with less than $1.40 per meal, according to CBPP’s calculations.
Citing research from the USDA that shows many low-income families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, CBPP says the cuts will hit families that arguably need more, not less, help: “Given this research and the growing awareness of the inadequacy of the current SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit allotments, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefit levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.”
Although the federal food stamp program has been cut before, it’s never been cut to this extent, according to CBPP. “There have been some cuts in specific states, but these cuts have not typically been as large or affected as many people as what will occur this November,” the report reads.
The reductions could also have a broader economic impact: Every $1 increase in food aid generates about $1.70 in economic activity, according to progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
“Ohio’s foodbanks and hunger charities cannot respond to increasing hunger on their own,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in a statement released by Policy Matters. “SNAP takes Ohioans out of our food pantry lines and puts them into grocery store checkout lines. It provides supplemental food to the most vulnerable among us. Now is not the time to further reduce this already modest assistance to struggling families.”
About 48 percent of Cincinnati children are in poverty, according to a 2011 study from the National Center for Children in Poverty. Despite that, city funding to human services that benefits low-income families has been cut throughout the past decade. CityBeat covered that issue in greater detail here.
The cut to the federal food stamp program kicks in automatically in November instead of the original April 2014 sunset date as a result of laws passed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats are now urging legislation that would remedy the situation, but it’s unlikely anything will pass the gridlocked Congress.
Republicans are preparing a bill that would further cut the food stamp program, which they see as too generous and expensive. From Fox News: “Reps. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, two Republicans who helped design the bill, said the legislation would find the savings by tightening eligibility standards and imposing new work requirements. It would also likely try to reduce the rolls by requiring drug testing and barring convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles from receiving food stamps.”
Do you enjoy looking at slideshows of rich people? Here's a good one, themed “Most Corrupt Members of Congress.” Guess which local Eastside representative made the list … Here's a hint: Jean Schmidt.
Supporters of low income housing programs are criticizing a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood). Chabot's proposal would impose restrictions on people who use the federal Section 8 housing program, which provides vouchers to help poor people pay their rent. Among his changes, people only would be able to use the program for five years. In Cincinnati, however, 53 percent of clients already leave the program within five years. Of the 47 percent who remain, many of them have problems like mental health issues and likely would become homeless and more expensive to deal with for the government, a housing advocate told The Enquirer.
To prepare for an influx of foreign visitors when the World Choir Games begin here in July, a new language translation tool is being launched. Cincinnati-based Globili is testing its text and mobile application for cellphones and smartphones that translates signs, menus and ads into about 50 languages. The event will be held July 4-14 at various locations in downtown and Over-the-Rhine including the Aronoff Center for the Arts and Music Hall.
It's been 147 years since the U.S. Civil War ended, but Kentucky lawmakers are just now getting around to abolishing a pension fund for Confederate veterans. The measure, which passed Kentucky's House of Representatives unanimously on Feb. 29, now heads to the state Senate for a vote. No one who is eligible to receive the pension has been alive for at least 50 years, lawmakers said. I guess things really do move more slowly in the South.
Business at the venerable Blue Wisp Jazz Club has increased since it moved to a new location at Seventh and Race streets in January. The club's owners attribute the jump to more pedestrian traffic and the number of hotels located near the new site. The front room includes a bar and restaurant accessible with no cover charge, while the back room is reserved for performances by Jazz musicians.
Steep spikes and drops on standardized test scores, a pattern that has indicated cheating in Atlanta and other cities across the nation, have occurred in hundreds of school districts and charter schools across Ohio in the past seven years, a Dayton Daily News analysis found. The analysis doesn't prove cheating has occurred in Ohio, but documents show state officials don't employ vigorous statistical analyses to catch possible cheating, discipline only about a dozen teachers a year and direct Ohio’s test vendor to spend just $17,540 on analyzing suspicious scores out of its $39 million annual testing contract.
In news elsewhere, the U.S. Supreme Court begins its constitutional review of the health-care overhaul law today with a basic question: Is the court barred from making such a decision at this time? The justices will hear 90 minutes of argument about whether an obscure 19th-century law — the Anti-Injunction Act — means that the court cannot pass judgment on the law until its key provisions go into effect in 2014.
When it recently was announced that a U.S. soldier who allegedly went on a shooting spree in Afghanistan would be charged with 17 counts of murder, many people wondered about the number. After all, early reports indicated Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Norwood native, allegedly killed 16 people. Military officials decided to charge Bales with murder for the death of the unborn baby of one of the victims, a senior Afghan police official said today.
In a possibly related incident, a gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO soldiers today at a base in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force has said. Details were still sketchy, but NATO said in a statement that an individual wearing an Afghan soldier's uniform had turned his weapon against international troops. Coalition forces then returned fire, killing the gunman.
China and the United States have agreed to coordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if North Korea goes ahead with a planned rocket launch, the White House says. North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite, but U.S. officials say any launch would violate United Nations resolutions and be a missile test.
Somehow, 71-year-old Dick Cheney managed to get a heart transplant Saturday after spending nearly two years on a list waiting for a suitable organ to become available. Cheney, a former U.S. vice president and — some would say — unindicted war criminal, got the transplant even as much younger, healthier people continue to wait for a new heart. (My guess is he made a pact with Beelzebub.) Cheney has had five heart attacks over the years, the first occurring at age 37.
The Freestore Foodbank today began its annual distribution of Thanksgiving meals to needy families. The delivery of meals will continue through Wednesday afternoon.
Workers at the Freestore will deliver boxes to about 23,000 families throughout the Tristate region.
The Cincinnati Enquirer announced its endorsements over the weekend, and four incumbents were left thinking, “What the [expletive] did I do?!?” The current councilpersons who the paper decided not to endorse are Republican Wayne Lippert, who was appointed in March, and Republicans Leslie Ghiz and Charlie Winburn, along with Democrat Cecil Thomas.
Ghiz was described as having a penchant for starting arguments that have been “personal, petty and nasty,” while Winburn's “unpredictable behavior” was noted along with Thomas' problems fully grasping budget and finance issues.
Federal officials this week awarded more than $2.6 million to a local nonprofit agency that oversees various programs aimed at reducing homelessness.
The money, allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was given to Strategies to End Homelessness, which was formerly known as the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care.
In total, HUD awarded nearly $201 million to 731 programs focused on addressing homelessness. The funding will help provide critically needed rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families.
Locally, Strategies to End Homelessness coordinates such federal funding. It will divide the money as follows:
** Center for Independent Living Options (permanent housing) — $854,432
** Salvation Army (rapid re-housing for homeless families) — $526,797
** Prospect House (homeless housing and treatment) — $126,000
** Freestore Foodbank (rapid re-housing for homeless individuals) — $739,858
** Lighthouse Youth Services (permanent supportive housing) — $409,122
HUD awards such funding based on outcomes achieved by the local homeless services system.
“Our community received this funding because we have been successful at doing two things: helping homeless people move into housing, and also increase their income, specifically through employment,” said Kevin Finn, Strategies’ executive director, in a prepared statement.
According to the latest data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties throughout the United States, homelessness declined 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2011 and dropped 12 percent among military veterans.
Founded in 2007, Strategies to End Homelessness coordinates services and funding toward the goal of ending homelessness. The organization works to prevent at-risk households from becoming homeless, assist people who are homeless back into housing, and to reduce the recurrence of homelessness.
The organization has created a single, coordinated system that includes the use of homelessness prevention services, street outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, transitional and permanent supportive housing, and services-only programs.