October 6, 2010
Mrs. Smith is a child care provider who lives in Northwest Philadelphia and cares for six children in her home. She came to the Child Care Law Project (CCLP) of Community Legal Services to obtain help with negotiating a lease agreement for a commercial space that would allow her to expand her daycare to serve more children and increase her family’s income.
Since 2008, in spite of her modest income, Mrs. Smith has shelled out over $2000 to meet the strict requirements of city, state, and federal childcare regulations. Mrs. Smith’s plans to expand her childcare center were at a standstill because the space that she wished to use was zoned residential–even though it had been used for over 40 years as a commercial enterprise. Mrs. Smith was caught up by a zoning code regulation that states that a building reverts back to its original zoning classification after two years of non-usage for what it was last zoned as. Mrs. Smith has therefore had to go through the city’s zoning appeals process in order to have the building zoned for her purposes.
In addition, after originally supporting Mrs. Smith, members of a local community organization unexpectedly appeared at the zoning hearing to oppose her application. The community organization argued that Mrs. Smith’s landlord had illegally dumped trash onto a vacant lot in the past. Mrs. Smith has had to spend several frustrating weeks waiting for a decision from the Zoning Board of Adjustments on whether or not she can move forward with expanding her daycare while continuing to pay $1,400 per month in rent for the commercial space.
Luckily, the CCLP has worked with Mrs. Smith to help her overcome the zoning and other barriers she has faced to expand her childcare center.
Zoning is the entry point for all child care providers, many of whom are first time business owners, and many of whom are low-income residents of Philadelphia. The clients that the CCLP sees are mostly women, have often recently come off of welfare or out of other dire financial circumstances, and are attempting to create a business that can be both economically viable and fulfill an important community need. The CCLP also sees child care providers who are small community organizations and faith-based organizations seeking to provide a safe space in the community for children to learn and play while their parents go to work and school. The child care businesses serve the community, its children, and low-income (mostly women) individuals by creating dynamic, creative approaches to education, land use, business ownership, and community empowerment. Read the rest of this entry »
October 4, 2010
This month, up to 5,600 severely disabled and elderly refugees will lose their SSI checks. Early last week, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill to extend this vital safety net lifeline, but unfortunately, Congress adjourned prior to voting on this extension.
Community Legal Services has worked for years helping low-income refugees and asylees who are too disabled or elderly to work. For many of these humanitarian immigrants, monthly SSI payments of approximately $700 per month are the only income they have to pay for rent, utilities, and other costs of daily living.
In 2006, CLS filed a national class action lawsuit on behalf of 60,000 immigrants. The settlement in that lawsuit, called Kaplan v. Chertoff, required the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to expedite the citizenship applications for immigrants subject to the time limit on SSI benefits. In 2008, CLS joined a national coalition of advocacy organizations and successfully lobbied for a two-year extension of SSI for these immigrants. Sadly, despite national media attention and the efforts of dozens of advocacy groups, that extension has now ended for many of these refugees.
CLS hopes to renew its efforts to obtain an extension of SSI eligibility for affected refugees when Congress returns after the election. In the meantime, for more information, check out this publication by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If you or someone you know has been affected by this cut off, you can find more information about your rights by reading our Advocates’ Guide to the October 2010 Cut-off.
A video produced by Michael Wong, a U/Penn Law Student, about Shmul Kaplan, the named plaintiff in the 2006 class action law suit can be viewed below.
October 3, 2010
Currently, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering House Bill 2400, which would allow the state to draw down the unemployment compensation (UC) money made available under the federal Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act. In order to receive $273 million, Pennsylvania is required to make the common sense changes to our UC Law that are contained in that bill—changes already made in whole or in part by 39 states.
The most important change is the adoption of an “alternative base period,” which allows workers to count more recent earnings to qualify for UC benefits [note: see here for an explanation of the ABP - Alternative Base Period fact sheet]. This provision alone would help 30,000 more people receive UC each year, including an additional 3180 in Philadelphia, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Read the rest of this entry »
October 1, 2010
This week, the City of Philadelphia announced its 2010-11 Housing Retention Program.
This program will give grants of up to $2500 per year to low-income homeowners in foreclosure, or in danger of foreclosure. To be approved, the grant amount must be sufficient to bring the homeowner current. (If the grant alone is not enough, the homeowner must have the remaining funds or provide them from another source.)
Funds will be available as of October 1st. Theoretically they are available through the end of the fiscal year, but they will probably run out in April or so.
Applications are made through Dixon House (citywide), Congreso (citywide), and Southwest CDC (for certain zip codes only). Click the link above for contact information and details about income limits.
If all required documents are provided at time of application, the turn-around time is expected to be about two weeks.