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The Reality of Jewish Poverty in New York City

What a newly-released UJA study reveals

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U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On June 9, Congressman Jerrold Nadler announced legislation that would increase the tax credits poor families could claim. Under the current law, a family can claim a total of 45 percent of income for an Earned Income Tax Credit if they have three children or more. But the law maxes out at three; the amount they can claim doesn’t change whether they have three children or 10 children.

In contrast, Nadler’s Tax Fairness for All Families Act of 2013 would directly relate the EITC to the number of children in a specific family. A family with four children, for example, would be eligible for a 50 percent credit; a family with five eligible for a 55 percent credit, all the way up to families with seven or more children, who would be eligible for a 65 percent credit. “Under current law, a family with seven children making $26,000 per year receives an EITC of $5,385,” the press release states. “Under Nadler’s bill, that same family would receive $8,070 in their EITC.”

Nadler’s district extends from the Upper West Side of Manhattan down into Brooklyn—including, probably most importantly for this bill, Borough Park. But a recent UJA study shows that the most at-risk community in the greater New York City area is not in Borough Park but actually Brighton Beach. On June 6, the UJA released its 2011 poverty report, which contained shocking results. Contrary to what some might expect, Hasidic households do not make up the lion’s share of poverty-stricken households in the New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester area. They’re listed at 17 percent.

Instead, the largest group of poor Jewish households come from a heart-wrenching demographic: senior households, which make up 42 percent of all Jewish households in poverty. Of these, 26 percent are Russian-speaking households, and 16 percent are non-Russian-speaking households (33,900 and 20,200, respectively)—72 percent of all Russian-speaking senior households are below the poverty line. Compare this to the percentage of families including a person with a disability, 54 percent of whom live in poverty, or the percentage of Hasidic families who live in poverty (45 percent).

What’s perhaps most upsetting is the finding that these people are not even taking advantage of the help that is available to them: Only 13 percent live in public housing; 33 percent have Medicaid; 48 percent receive SNAP (food stamps). And some feel that the situation of the near poor is even worse. A near poor individual makes $15,000-$26,000 yearly, but rarely qualifies for social services. Only 14 percent of the near poor are on food stamps, and only 13 percent have Medicaid. Regarding assistance from philanthropic sources, the study found that “poor households appear to have greater difficulty getting occupational assistance, and near-poor households have greater difficulty in getting help with food or housing.”

Special Report on Jewish Poverty [UJA]

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Micah Thomas says:

So much for the stereotype that all Jews are rich!

chloeross3 says:

As I have said often in print and out loud – we are a uncommonly reich demographic on the whole – there is aimmense Jewish wealth. There should not be Jewish seniors or disabled living in any poverty. They should be cared for by their larger family of landsmen. We have the ways and means to create an umbrella for our people and carry them when they are not able to carry themselves. Ihave less ocmpassion for the Haredim who are in poverty. Huge families and lack of secular education are one of the causes of their poverty and it is self-inflicted. Their own community needs to step up and care for these Jews who elect a life of learning and procreating. I do not believe that G-d intended living on the government dime a requirement for this lifestyle.

Rachel Lavoie says:

As a social worker who makes frequent home visits to families in public housing in NYC, I understand why they are not “taking advantage” of that “benefit.” The neighborhoods are often extremely unsafe with lots of violence and gang activity, and the sense of desolation is overwhelming.

Who wants to move to a building with HUNDREDS of units, halls that smell of urine, stairwells where you get raped or mugged, and elevator doors with bulletholes in the glass? I, too, would probably rather be even poorer and scrape everything I have for a somewhat better living situation…

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The Reality of Jewish Poverty in New York City

What a newly-released UJA study reveals

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