The Week in Community Development—July 19

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: Minimum Wage Bill Passes in the House | NJ Passes a Utility Bill Law | Under-Resourced Neighborhoods and Health | U of M Students Demand Divestiture | What We're Reading | More...

minimum wage protest sign
Photo courtesy of Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The federal minimum wage was last raised nearly 10 years ago, and it shows. Most wages have not kept with costs of living, least of all those for the lowest wage-earning workers in the U.S. The Democrat-led House passed the ‘Raise the Wage’ Act this week, which would bring the mandated minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Some high-cost states already exceed $15, but because we know that nowhere in the country can you work full-time for the minimum wage and not be rent-burdened, this is a bill whose passage is overdue. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems unlikely to bring it up for a vote, and if it were to come before him, Trump says he’d veto it out of concerns for what he says is our [ahem] currently “robust” economy.

Linda’s Law. It was about a year ago when we heard the tragic story about a New Jersey woman who died after the power to her home was shut off due to nonpayment, and the oxygen tank she used to help her breathe lost power. There’s now a law that prohibits public utility companies in the Garden State from shutting off service due to nonpayment for 90 days for customers who rely on electric-powered medical equipment. “No one should fear losing their life because their electricity bill is a few days overdue,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told the Asbury Park Press. In most states, a household can avoid or delay termination of utility services if the shut-off would impact their health. However, the process isn’t simple. We hope NJ makes it easy for residents to understand the process, and that utility company employees are all on board. Miscommunication could pose an issue and lead to another tragedy.

There’s a connection: We already know that there are many factors that affect a person’s health. Now we’re seeing research that shows conditions within a neighborhood can also increase the risk of heart failure among residents. For instance, this new study takes a look at low-income neighborhoods and shows how a lack of resources compound residents’ risk for heart failure. “An increase in neighborhood deprivation … was associated with a 20 percent increase in risk of heart failure among white participants and a 10 percent increase among Black participants,” according to a piece in How Housing Matters.

Students at the University of Michigan went before the school’s Board of Regents and its president this week to make the case for pulling its investments out of a firm involved in a large number of evictions in Detroit. The firm, Detroit Renaissance Real Estate Fund, is owned by two individuals who also own a firm that purchased over 100 foreclosed homes at city auction last year. Forty-seven of those homes were still occupied at the time of the sale, and in the past year, 20 of those homes have since had evictions filed. The students calling for the divestiture say that the university’s investment does not align with its public mission.

Here’s what else were reading: How U.S. Child Care Is Segregated: a Brooklyn Story in CityLab, Why Japanese-Americans received reparations and African-Americans are still waiting in The Conversation.

1 COMMENT

  1. Trump enablers are not spineless, they are true believers, and that is the problem

    Some might see McConnell’s refusal to bring the federal minimum wage bill to a vote as just another example of a Republican fearful of opposing Trump, perhaps even to the point where the President might challenge a “disloyal” Republican with a primary challenge in the next election. Republicans in Congress are constantly criticized by many pundits as spineless enablers fearful of being primaried and losing their seats. As historian Douglas Brinkley recently observed, “They’re just terrified of crossing swords with Trump…They’ve just figured if they criticize Trump, it’ll boomerang on them..”(Toluse Oorunnipa, “Trump’s incendiary rhetoric is met with fading resistance from Republican and corporate leaders,” Washington Post July 15). But maybe they are not the toadies that they are often portrayed to be. Maybe they simply share many of Trump’s beliefs, as clearly do his supporters across the country. Hannity and friends are quick to share the President’s message that “the Squad” should go back where they came from. Trump’s approval ratings seem to be moving up with each new outrage if they are changing at all with approximately 90% of Republicans saying they support him. These people are at no risk of losing their jobs because of their political preferences. They simply believe. Why should that not be the case for most Republicans in Congress? McConnell is certainly no friend of labor. If this is the case, we have far more to fear than the job-loss fear of a few Congressional representatives itself.

    Gregory D. Squires
    Professor of Sociology and Public Policy and Public Administration
    George Washington University

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