Five Years After the Recovery Act

This week was the anniversary of the American Recovery Act signed into law to clean up the mess that Wall Street made of our economy.  The lax regulations of big banks and the unregulated housing market corrupted the financial industry.  A lot of ink has been spilled to complain that the ACA was a giant boondoggle because we still have a relatively high unemployment rate.  I don't know about the other areas of the ACA, but I can say that it was a life saver for homeless people in Cleveland. 

I remember how people were worried that the whole system was failing.  I remember that the Presidential election suspending their campaigns because of how dire the situation was.  I remember that I thought that there would be thousands of families who were going to need shelter in Cleveland.  We were shedding massive numbers of jobs and there was no end in sight.  We were on the brink of a Great Depression II and no one had any answers.  Remember that the Congress originally refused to pass a rescue plan and the stock market took a huge dive, before they came to their senses.  

I can say that the $14 million that we got in Cleveland to assist homeless people worked.  We saw a huge increase in the number of people showing up at the shelters, but with the rental assistance we got people out of the shelters quickly.   We learned a lot from the stimulus funding.  We learned what worked and what did not.  We did not have to turn people away, and we know that we can quickly implement a program to end homelessness for thousands.  It was proof that if we had the proper resources government could solve problems.  If we built large numbers of housing units and found people income, we could significantly reduce homelessness in America.   The housing part of the ACA was a huge success in Cleveland and we could use a new infusion of funds like we got five years ago.

Brian Davis

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Government Can Solve Problems 1

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

Government has taken a beating beginning with "government is not the solution to our problem;, government is our problem" and continuing with "the era of big government is over;" falling dramatically from the lofty ideas first collected in 1787 as the preamble to the Constitution.  Government has figured out a way to heal after a Civil War, a way to regulate against food that killed, destroy an evil political ideaology that had swept Europe and put a man on the moon after a 10 year goal was set.  They have developed a way to bring states back from the brink when they refused to enforce court ordered integration of schools with the Civil Rights Act and the important Voting Rights Act.  Government has funded an end to polio, AIDS management drugs, and pushing the life expectancy of the population. 

Now, we have a period in which we slash government with a blindfold called Sequestration.  We have a Congress too timid to even debate many issues such as abortion, mortgage interest deductions, an assault weapons ban, and the age of retirement.  In a time when people fly planes into IRS offices, distrust government registry of gun sales, and have begun shooting District Attorneys and County Sherriffs, we need to start talking about the life saving activities of government.  When we only hear about lavish conferences, wasted dollars for x-ray machines at the airport, or 2 years wait for disability claims within the Department of Veteran's Affairs, we need to provide some balance. We wanted to document some successes in government in a time of scorn and outright hatred involving arming of the citizens to protect against government.  We the people have done some incredible work that we need to champion.

This edition we will look at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009 which put a bunch of money into existing programs.  They funded infrastructure projects, increased unemployment compensation and for our purposes pumped a bunch of funding into the Emergency Shelter Grant.  In Cuyahoga County we received $14 million to serve homeless people between 2010 and 2012.   This was a substantial amount of money to be used for homeless people at the same time.  It allowed for experimentation and trials that we never had the opportunity or funds to try in the past.  It was a resounding success and really saved Cleveland. 

There were problems with the delivery of so many funds in such a short period of time, but that is to be expected.  There was not the level of transparency that we would have preferred and there were some weak links in the agencies that distributed the funds.  NEOCH had some better ideas for how to prevent homelessness, but in the big picture the money worked.   The shelters were able to get people out quickly and were able to limit the flow of people into the shelters.   We did not have to turn people away even though there was a significant increase in requests for shelter.  With the funds from government, we prevented hundreds from having to spend time in the shelters.   The stimulus dollars prevented homelessness and moved people quickly back into housing.  This concept worked and proves that with the right funding we can reduce homelessness.   For too long we have been only trying to triage people and keep them alive.  We have spent all our money on this concept, and never had any left over for housing.   We have proven that if we had targeted money for housing, we could quickly save people the agony of having to stay in shelter. 

We need to build on this success by expanding targeted access to homeless prevention dollars.  We know that eviction diversion works, and we know that if we can provide rental assistance to as many people as possible who show up at the shelter we can reduce the number of people forced to stay in the shelters.  Government can do things right, and government funds can have an impact on society.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a success for homeless people in Cleveland Ohio.