Washington Area Women's Foundation

Stepping Stones Research Briefing sneak peek: How is the recession impacting the poor in D.C.?

When I was honored with an invitation to speak at the Stepping Stones Research Briefing, no one told me I’d have to figure out what I was going to talk about a week in advance (so that I could write a preview for this blog).

How unfair is that?

Of course, it was good to push me to start thinking about what I would share from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s recent research —what things are likely to be most interesting and relevant to you all.

So here is a preview of what you will hear from me on May 20.

I will start by exploring some recent economic indicators for the District of Columbia, including food stamp caseloads and unemployment. They are rising sharply, of course, which means poverty is on the rise, too.

The bad economic news this year comes on the heels of an “economic recovery,” during which poverty failed to decline in DC.  In fact, the number of poor residents rose through much of the early 2000s, even though the city was gaining jobs and residents and the real estate market was booming.

I will then talk about two pieces of upcoming DCFPI research. 

One focuses on the demographics of poor D.C. residents.  Not surprisingly, women-headed families with children face high poverty rates and represent a large share of D.C.’s low-income population, which means that D.C. cannot tackle poverty successfully without focusing on this group.  Our research finds that many of these single women with children are not working but that even when they have a job — even a full-time job — they earn so little that many remain poor.

A second DCFPI research project is based on focus groups we held last year with DC TANF recipients. Those conversations revealed that DC’s TANF cash benefits are inadequate to meet even the bare necessities, that the program’s employment preparation services or generally poor quality, and that TANF recipients have limited access to services that address personal barriers, despite policies on paper that suggest these services are available.

I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday at the 2009 Stepping Stones Research Briefing!

Please R.S.V.P. here.

Then help us spread the word. We have an Event, "2009 Stepping Stones Research Briefing," on Facebook. We’re also on Twitter @TheWomensFndtn.

Ed Lazere is the Executive Director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.