The Price of Austerity

Emergency Shelter and Hunger Funds Cut by 40%

I am supposed mention good things to balance out the depression of homelessness and poverty that permeates this blog. So, the good news was that Cleveland was not listed as one of the top 10 sickest housing markets in the United States. Our friends in Dayton and Detroit are both on the list, but Cleveland was spared from the "sickest list." Now for the bad news.... There was a great deal of debate over the last month about a double dip recession, and austerity measures slowing the economy. There were many who talked about the 1937 Congressional push to cut the debt while the country was still trying to crawl out of the Great Depression. This only caused the economy to slide back into depression, and many are afraid we are facing the same thing today.

One example was the cuts to the 2011 budget, and programs that serve the very low income. Every year the shelters and the soup kitchens and food pantries divide up funds from the FEMA federal budget as part of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) funds. This has remained relatively stable for the last decade with a spike in dollars as part of the 2009 stimulus. This year, the shelters and hunger programs will face a 40% cut in funds. The United Way is the caretaker of these funds locally, and here is their summary of the situation:


Congress has appropriated $119,760,000 nationally to supplement the emergency food and shelter programs which represents an $80,240, 000 decrease (approximately a 40% decrease) in the amount that was allocated for phase 28. The amount of FEMA/EFSP funds awarded to Cuyahoga County for phase 29 [2011] is $572,482 which represents a $250,861 decrease in the amount that was allocated to the county in phase 28 [2010] ($823,343).


This is going to be a huge hardship for the hunger programs which received over $400,000 last year from the federal government. All of these funds are divided by formula so the shelters with the largest number of beds get the biggest allocation, and the food programs that give out the largest amount of food get the largest amount of the money. 2100 Lakeside receives a sizable amount of the dollars from the FEMA/EFSP allocation, and their residents will feel the loss.

The federal homeless dollars are relatively stable this year, but the Community Development Block Grant funds (which supports a few of the homeless programs) is facing a 30% cut over the next two years, and there are cuts coming from the State of Ohio for behavioral health programs. All of this austerity is going to hurt those who could not find help against predatory and housing bubble or those who tried in vein to find a bailout for their unemployment. At a time when food resources are stretched thin throughout the county, the federal government is cutting funds to the food pantries. At a time when more people are looking for housing in our community, the feds are cutting funds to shelters.

Brian Davis
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