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Low pay, high rent

According to a report released last week, the hourly wage a family must earn — working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year — to be able to afford rent and utilities in the private housing market is $12.36. This represents an increase of 19.0 percent since 2000.

“Every year it is becoming more difficult for low income families to find decent homes they can afford in Indiana,” said Michael Reinke of the Indiana Coalition on Housing and Homeless Issues. “The Median Household Income in Indiana has dropped 8.4 percent [$3,886] over the last five years; if this trend continues, safe, affordable housing will become even farther out of reach for most Hoosiers,” said Christie Gillespie of the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development. “This report clearly illustrates the pressing need for affordable housing in our communities.”

The report, Out of Reach 2006, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based housing advocacy group, IACED and ICHHI. The report provides the Housing Wage and other data for every state, metropolitan area and county in the country.

The typical renter in Indiana earns $10.64, which is $1.72 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest unit. Working at the minimum wage, a family must have 2.4 wage earners working full-time — or one full-time earner working 96 hours — to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

An estimated 44 percent of Indiana’s renters do not earn enough income to afford a two-bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent. This year, Indiana is the 31st most expensive state in the nation for renters.

The National Housing Wage is $16.31.

Supporting food aid

Rep. Julia Carson sent a letter Monday to the White House expressing bipartisan congressional support for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program in the FY08 budget. Sixty members of the House of Representatives joined her as signatories of the letter.

“I am thrilled so many of my colleagues are dedicated to ensuring that the CSFP continues to serve seniors across the country,” Congresswoman Carson said. “We need to take action now to ensure this program continues to provide those in need with well-balanced meals,” she said.

In his FY07 budget request, President Bush eliminated funding for the CSFP. The program provides nutritional food supplements to Americans whose income is below $12,444 per year in 32 states, the District of Columbia and two Indian Tribal organizations. Ninety percent of CSFP recipients are elderly.

Volunteers of local food banks often provide personal delivery service to home-bound seniors or limited mobility individuals who are recipients of CSFP boxes. In Indiana, Gleaners Food Bank administers the program, which serves 4,440 Hoosiers.

A look at ‘The Highway Men’

“The Highwaymen,” just released on MotherJones.com, and published in January’s print edition, details how states around the country are cutting deals to lease public highways to private companies. In all, more than 20 states have passed legislation authorizing privatization.

Last year, Indiana turned over a 157-mile stretch of I-90 to a foreign consortium for $3.8 billion. Under pressure from critics, Indiana commissioned a third-party study that was released just days before the vote and supported the deal, but e-mails obtained by Mother Jones suggest the state was more interested in deploying the study to its political advantage than in its conclusions or methodology. A subsequent analysis concluded that the value of the road could be more than $11 billion over the 75 years of the deal, suggesting the consortium will get a nice return on its investment.

Mother Jones reporters Dan Schulman and James Ridgeway also reveal that Goldman Sachs has advised Indiana and other states considering privatization even as it has created a fund whose sole purpose is to maximize returns by picking up infrastructures for the best price possible. Goldman Sachs’ Mark Florian told Schulman he has personally visited more than 35 Statehouses to “help spur the market.”

As Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) asked Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels at a congressional hearing last May, “Are we outsourcing political will to a private entity here?” Public sentiment ran almost 2-to-1 against the Indiana deal, and Schulman, who traveled the Indiana Toll Road in reporting the story, found almost no one who supports the transfer.

Heads up re: bottoms up!

As happens every seven years, Hoosiers who plan on celebrating the holidays with alcohol beverages need to plan ahead. This year, liquor stores will be closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as both fall on a Sunday and Indiana prohibits the sale of alcohol for carry-out on Sundays.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally the busiest day of the year for liquor stores. Due to state law, liquor stores in Indiana will also be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. While carry-out is prohibited on New Year’s Eve, restaurants and bars will be able to take advantage of a law that allows them to stay open until 3 a.m. when New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday instead of the usual Sunday closing hour which is 12:30 a.m.

All alcohol sales are prohibited on Christmas Day.




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