The Observer (CFED)
By: Roberta Keller
March 25, 2012
Too many are 'asset poor'
In New York state today, 35.5 percent of households are "asset poor," meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on if unemployment or another emergency leads to a loss of income, according to a report released by the national nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development.
The 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranked New York 27th in the country overall for how its residents fare in terms of achieving financial security across 52 measures in five different issue areas. Many state residents have jobs, and yet lack adequate savings or other assets to cover expenses for three months if they lose a steady income.
For asset poor families, scraping by day to day is a constant struggle and investing in the future is all but impossible. "Growing numbers of Americans have almost no savings or other assets to fall back on if they lose their jobs or face a medical crisis," said Andrea Levere, president of Corporation for Enterprise Development . "Without those savings, few will be able to invest in a more economically secure future, including buying a home, saving for their children's college educations or building a retirement nest egg."
The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans' ability to save and build wealth, fend off poverty and create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard explores how well residents are faring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses policies that are helping residents build and protect assets across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. (The scorecard is available at www.cfed.org)
The Scorecard highlights a dozen policy solutions that can help New York increase opportunity and promote financial well-being for all residents.
Key Western New York stakeholders, who support some level of service in the five issue areas listed above, gathered to evaluate New York's ranking and make recommendations of their own. Their recommendations follow:
1. Education: (State Rank: C)
New York's Pre-K Initiatives should be strengthened and expanded to better prepare children for school success.
Support teacher evaluations and training as negotiated between New York state and the NYSUT Association to maximize resources in support of schools and student achievement.
Greater emphasis and support for making schools "community hubs" - encouraging community supportive services as wrap around for families - promoting school/student success.
Increased school aid to high need districts.
Data does not accurately reflect some increasing trends: growing number of high school graduates who are not passing basic competency tests, easier college entry-higher drop outs-college students taking 6 years to graduate due to remediation at college costs for high school work which increases student debt post-graduation, more work needed between colleges for transferrable credits.
2. Financial Assets and Income: (State Rank: C)
New York State should fund an Individual Development Account Program that will provide match money for federal programs.
Reduce New York state's tax burden on low and moderate income New Yorkers.
Increased support for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites, Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits.
3. Businesses and Jobs: (State Rank: B)
Support job creation through self-employment.
Incentivize and assign priority status to small business and microenterprise projects
Greater support for Community Development Financial Institutions.
Referrals should be made by Department of Labor, at time of unemployment, to supportive services.
Small business development is key to Rural New York economic development: prioritize micro enterprise support.
Increase unemployment benefits without charging to businesses by connecting to government subsidy matches from federal and state resources.
Increase supports that will promote New York's agricultural industries.
4. Housing and Homeownership: (State Rank: F)
New York's housing score is indicative of the influence of metropolitan New York for upstate - positive homeownership supports have been very effective and need to be increased.
Create a New York state Housing Trust Fund.
Expand resources for all housing counseling and foreclosure assistance programs, including tax foreclosures.
Enact legislation and policies that recognize the distinction between metro and rural New York.
New York must address the aging housing stock by increasing funds for repair, energy efficiencies, and, when rehab is not feasible, for demolition based on local community comprehensive plans.
5. Health Care: (State Rank: B)
Expand COBRA to 36 months.
Increase clinics which will facilitate access to care often limited by transportation problems and the limited availability of physicians in rural New York and of practitioners who accept government sponsored insurance.
Promote affordable health insurance for the large population of uninsured New Yorkers.