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by German Lopez 02.12.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Development at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Qualls Urges HUD to Stop Sale of Housing Units

More than 700 units being sold to New York company

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stop the sale of 748 housing units to a New York company — potentially preventing a repeat of a similar sale back to 2007 that led to dropping property values in the area.

In a press release Tuesday, Qualls argued that locals should be given the opportunity to purchase the project-based Section 8 housing in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Currently, HUD is bypassing local communities with plans to sell the housing to a corporation controlled by the Puretz family of Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Cincinnati’s residents are still recovering from the massive disinvestment that was allowed to occur with an eerily similar situation in 2010,” Qualls said in the release, referring to a similar sale that culminated in a huge drop in property values between 2007 and 2010.

In 2007, HUD sold 618 subsidized housing units to NY Group OH 1 LLC, a company with no previous housing experience in Cincinnati, according to Qualls’ release. As the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession pulled down the global economy, property values dropped all around the nation, but things went particularly south in NY Group’s Cincinnati buildings. The owner eventually defaulted on the housing units, and Fannie Mae foreclosed in 2010.

Property values went from $21.5 million to $7 million between 2007 and 2010, when the units were sold in a sheriff’s sale. In that time period, the buildings blighted, with residents complaining about deteriorating structures, broken lighting, bed bugs, cockroaches and mold. In one case, an apartment’s restroom ceiling reportedly collapsed.

Qualls is focused on preventing more blighted buildings: “Preservation of the housing in good condition is vital to the improvement of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods cannot afford to have more blight brought on by an absentee owner. Because these properties are supported by government funding, it is vitally important that HUD get public input from the City of Cincinnati and Avondale, Walnut Hills and Millvale residents and stakeholders about this proposed new transfer of HUD funded properties before making any further decisions.”

Qualls has invited the local HUD field office director to the Feb. 26 Livable Communities Committee meeting to discuss the sale. She has also written to other HUD officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot to prevent the sale.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Economy at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Incoming Federal Cuts to Hit Low-Income Ohio Families

Food stamp program losing temporary funding boost

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.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.13.2012
Posted In: Taxes, Public Policy, Poverty, Economy, Family at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
eitc

Group Pushes for Ohio Tax Change

Think tank: EITC would help working families

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.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.26.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Local Unemployment Rate Plummets

February jobs report shows dramatic drop in joblessness

Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati experienced dramatic drops in the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate between January and February, according to new data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

In Cincinnati, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent in February, down from 8.6 percent in January. The civilian labor force, which measures the amount of people working and seeking jobs, also dropped from 139,400 to 138,900, which means less people were looking for work. The amount of people employed rose from 127,400 to 128,600 and the amount of people unemployed dropped from 12,000 to 10,300.

At the county level, the civilian labor force remained steady, while the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped from 7.9 percent in January to 7.1 percent in February. Across all of Greater Cincinnati, the unemployment rate dropped from 8 percent to 7.4 percent, even as the civilian labor force grew by 1,300 — a sign that more people in the region are looking for work.

Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, says the report was encouraging and consistent with the past few years trends: “We’ve seen a lot of activity in the Cincinnati area. We know a few companies have been actively growing their businesses.”

The gains were also improvements in a year-over-year comparison. In February 2012, Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.4 percent, Hamilton County’s rate was 7.8 percent and Greater Cincinnati’s rate was 8.2 percent. The civilian labor force was also larger in Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati in February 2012, but less people were employed across-the-board.

Jones says looking at employment numbers is a much better way to gauge economic health than looking at the size of the civilian labor force. While employment purely measures job growth, the civilian labor force can be driven by demographic changes — including an aging, retiring population — and people going back to school full-time, according to Jones.

In February, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, and the U.S. seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.1 percent.

Jones says Cincinnati and Ohio are poised to continue strong growth: “We have a strong health care sector. As health care continues to be an important component of our economy, … Cincinnati is very well positioned to capture that growth.”

State and federal numbers are typically adjusted to account for seasonal employment patterns, while local numbers are not.

Unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months.

Update (3:54 p.m.): This story was updated with comments from Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.10.2012
Posted In: Economy, News at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
agenda360

Health Care and Computers Will Top 2020 Jobs Market

New report finds Cincinnati will continue growing and creating jobs

A new report has found that some of the best jobs in Cincinnati in 2020 will not require college degrees.

The report, which was done in a collaboration by Agenda 360, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, the Strive Partnership and Vision 2015 using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, found that 46 percent of jobs in 2020 paying the city average of $33,310 and more will only require a high school diploma or an equivalent to a high school diploma. Twenty-four percent will require bachelor's degrees, and 15 percent will require associate's degrees.

The best-paying, fastest-growing jobs by 2020 will be health care practitioners and any job involving computers and math and science, according to the report. Business and financial jobs will continue being among the best paying, but growth in that area is expected to be fairly timid. Health care support jobs will grow very quickly, but those jobs typically fall below the median wage.

The report also found some of the industries that workers might want to avoid. Food service will grow slowly and pay the worst, the report found. Transportation and production will pay slightly better, but they won't grow much.

The report also found that Cincinnati will continue to grow and be among the top economies. The report estimated that Cincinnati will add 106,115 new jobs by 2020. That should bring Cincinnati to slightly more than 1 million jobs, putting it ahead of competitors Cleveland, Columbus and Austin, Tex. However, Cincinnati will still lag behind Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the jobs market.

The full report can be read here.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.26.2012
Posted In: City Council, Economy, Government, Mayor, News, Streetcar at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Council Approves Measures Shifting $29 Million for Streetcar

Measures front Duke $15 million, add utility responsibility to move lines to city code

Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved a set of measures to alter funding of the $110 million streetcar project in order avoid further delaying its 2015 opening.

The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a utility to relocate its structures.

The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.

Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole “no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.

Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles Winburn voted against.

“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal opponents of the streetcar. 

“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”

The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the move. 

Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not recoup the $15 million.

The second proposal switches the source of funding for streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.

That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown district — which includes the Banks and the casino —  rebounds.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.07.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

City, Union Reach Deal Over Parking Privatization

City workers would get raises, protection from layoffs if City Council approves parking plan

In order to win the support of the largest city employees union for the leasing of Cincinnati’s parking facilities, the city administration has agreed to pay raises and no layoffs for three years.

There’s a catch — municipal employees only get the raises and job security if the city’s parking meters, garages and surface lots are leased to a private company for 30 years.

City Manager Milton Dohoney wants to lease the facilities for at least $40 million upfront and a share of parking profits for the next 30 years. He’d use $21 million of the upfront payment to patch a $34 million deficit in the city’s budget.

During recent budget hearings before City Council, Dohoney said extra revenue was needed to avoid the layoff of 344 city employees.

In a memo to the mayor and city council members, Dohoney outlined the agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Any municipal employees who will lose their jobs because of the deal would be placed in other city jobs with no loss of wages. No city employees covered by the union would be laid off between 2013 and 2016. City employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living raise for the 2013-2014 contract year and another 1 percent raise for the next contract year. AFSCME members will continue city vehicle maintenance work from 2013-2016. 

However, if City Council doesn’t approve of the plan to privatize parking, city employees get nothing. 

Public employees in Cincinnati have not been given raises in almost four years. Meanwhile, council voted last month to give Dohoney a 10 percent raise and a $35,000 bonus. Dohoney had not received a merit raise since 2007, but had collected cost of living adjustments and bonuses over the years.

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.06.2012
 
 
zeng

Morning News and Stuff

A local music teacher says Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offered him a job and then rescinded the offer after asking him if he is gay. Jonathan Zeng says he went through the school's extensive interview process, was offered a position and then called back in for a discussion about religious questions in his application, during which he was asked directly if he is gay. Zeng says he asked why such information was pertinent, and an administrator said it was school policy not to employ teachers who are gay because they work with children and something about the sanctity of marriage. When contacted by local media CHCA released the following statement:

CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate's interview. We're looking into this matter, although the initial information we have seen contains inaccuracies. We will not be discussing individual hiring decisions or interviews.
Cincinnati's deficit isn't going to get better any time soon, according to a new report.

The Reds drafted high school pitcher Nick Travieso in the first round of the MLB draft on Monday. Here's a rundown of their other picks Monday and Tuesday.

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace, and the Dems are going to stick it in their faces during this year's campaigns. From the AP:

As expected, the pay equity bill failed along party lines, 52-47, short of the required 60-vote threshold. But for majority Democrats, passage wasn't the only point. The debate itself was aimed at putting Republicans on the defensive on yet another women's issue, this one overtly economic after a government report showing slower-than-expected job growth.

"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families," Obama said in a statement after the vote.

"Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "He should show some leadership."

The Washington Post wonders whether Mitt Romney can use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's template for surviving a recall election to try to win the presidency. It involves “big money, powerful organization and enormous enthusiasm among his base.” Exit polls in the state suggest Obama is ahead, however.

China wants foreign embassies to stop releasing reports and Tweeting about its poor air quality.

Gonorrhea growing resistant to antibiotics? Rut roh.

Dinosaurs apparently weighed less than scientists previously thought. Adjust paper-mache Brontosaurus as necessary.

Facebook is considering letting kids younger than 13 use the site.

The Boston Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat on Tuesday and could send Bron Bron and Co. back home on Thursday.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.01.2012
 
 
huckabee

Morning News and Stuff

It's not exactly the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, but we'll understand your confusion if you mistake the event for the old Lollapalooza favorite. Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor, one-time presidential hopeful and current Fox News commentator, will host a forum Saturday in Southwest Ohio that features the three frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich will all attend the event, which will be held at the closed DHL plant in Wilmington. It will air live on the Fox News Channel from 8-10 p.m.

Cincinnati residents will get to sound off in coming weeks on two proposals from City Council that would extend councilmembers' terms from two years to four years. Under one proposal, all nine councilmembers would run at the same time, while in the other, terms would be staggered so some members would run every two years. Council will schedule four public hearings on the matter, then decide in August which of the two should be placed on the November ballot. Any change must happen in the form of a charter amendment, which needs voter approval.

A deer is being credited with saving a woman from being abducted in Oxford. The woman, a 20-year-old student at Miami University, walked outside a party alone about 1:20 a.m Sunday when a man grabbed her from behind and used her purse strap to choke her. The man dragged her to a nearby field. A deer then jumped from the bushes, startling the man and causing him to flee.

Although today is expected to be sunny and warm, Greater Cincinnati could experience some severe weather on Friday. Showers will move into the area at about noon Friday, and then warm fronts will arrive around 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., forecasters said. The fronts could produce strong thunderstorms and there is a “moderate” risk for hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. Powerful tornadoes Wednesday killed at least 12 people in the Midwest and South. States affected were Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

Kennedy Heights and Pendleton will be the recipients of Cincinnati's Neighborhood Enhancement Program this year. The program is a 90-day blitz of city services to jump-start revitalization efforts in individual neighborhoods. Kennedy Heights' blitz begins today, and Pendleton's will start in August.

In news elsewhere,
conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart died unexpectedly "from natural causes" early today, his website reported. Breitbart, 43, a star of the Tea Party movement, died shortly after midnight in Los Angeles, his website said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that the U.S. economic recovery is starting to accelerate. The economy grew by 3 percent in the final three months of last year, surpassing a previous estimate of 2.8 percent, and companies are beginning to add workers. Still, Bernanke cautioned that the recovery is “uneven and modest” and could be derailed by borrowers having trouble getting loans or by surging gasoline prices.


The European Union's data protection authorities are worried that Google's new privacy policy, which takes effect today, violates the union's standards for keeping some personal information confidential on the Internet. CNIL, a French regulatory agency, said Google's explanation of how it will use the data was too vague and difficult to understand "even for trained privacy professionals.”

Egypt has lifted a travel ban on the defendants in a trial of 43 nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers charged with using illegal foreign funds to promote unrest in the nation. In order to leave, however, the defendants – which include 16 American citizens — must post $330,000 in bail money. The U.S. State Department had protested the detentions, adding that Egypt's charges are groundless and aimed at quelling dissent against Islamic extremists.

Two more American military personnel were killed in Afghanistan when an Afghan civilian grabbed a weapon from an Afghan soldier and opened fire, NPR reports. The killings follow the anti-American protests and violence in Afghanistan since it was reported Feb. 21 that international military personnel had burned some Korans at the Bagram Air Field.. According to U.S. officials, the Korans were mistakenly mixed with some trash.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio No. 4 in Nation for Foreclosures

Another statistic adds doubt to state’s economic recovery

A new report shows Ohio has the fourth highest housing foreclosure rate in the nation — another troubling statistic for a state that, according to state officials, is supposed to be undergoing a major economic boom.

The report from RealtyTrac, a real estate information company, put Ohio’s foreclosure rate at 0.96 percent during the first half of 2013, a 2-percent increase from a comparable period in 2012.

Ohio’s foreclosure rate beat only Florida (1.74 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent) and Illinois (1.2 percent) in the rankings.

Ohio’s bump up in foreclosures defies the national trend: Foreclosure starts are on track to hit about 800,000 this year, down from 1.1 million in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. The recovery follows the 2007-2008 recession and the housing crisis that helped cause it, which led to a spike in foreclosures.

State officials, particularly Gov. John Kasich, often claim Ohio has led the nation in job and economic growth following the recession, but recent statistics have raised doubts about the claim.

A June 16 infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job creation between April 2012 and April of this year, supporting claims from liberal and conservative think tanks that Ohio’s job growth has been stagnating in the past year.

Still, Ohio had a 7 percent unemployment rate in May, lower than the national rate of 7.6 percent.

The state also added 32,100 jobs in May — more than any other state for that month. Whether that job growth holds up will be made clearer on July 19, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will release state job numbers for June.

Kasich on June 30 signed a state budget approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that Republicans claim will spur further job growth, but a CityBeat analysis calls that claim into question.

 
 

 

 

 
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