The Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey and the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy have released a joint report that investigates the budgetary consequences of concentrated poverty in four New Jersey Cities. The report can be found here and a summary of the report can be found here.
"As leaders, conceiving solutions to the crisis that is concentrated poverty is not only a public policy imperative, but a moral one," said Eric Jackson, Mayor of the City of Trenton. "I believe that we must work together to organize high-intensity partnerships with business, government, education and faith leaders to formulate solutions that are practical, effective and sustainable."
The report, The Cost of Poverty: The Perpetuating Cycle of Concentrated Poverty in New Jersey Cities, examines the budgetary pressures in four New Jersey cities facing the challenges of decreasing resources to address persistent poverty: Bridgeton, Passaic, Perth Amboy, and Trenton.
“These cities offer us important insight into the perpetuating cycle of concentrated poverty, depleted resources, and the inability to invest in needed services,” explained Serena Rice, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, which commissioned the report. “There is a lot of discussion in Trenton right now about ‘tax fairness.’ This important research reveals the structural unfairness of burdening our cities with the overwhelming task of addressing concentrated poverty, while their resources to do so keep shrinking.”
Among the report’s findings:
The most impoverished municipalities shoulder an unmanageable municipal tax burden – a greater burden than even their wealthy neighbors.
Services like healthcare, libraries, housing, mental health services, social wrap-around services, economic development, and infrastructure are crowded out of constrained budgets.
Due to the limits of public and affordable housing even in low-income areas, citizens of Bridgeton, Passaic, Perth Amboy, and Trenton must frequently spend over half their income on rent, leaving little else for other basic needs.
"As urban mayors, our administrations are not only commissioned to economic development, constituent services and providing everyday vital services, but also addressing socio-economic challenges that other communities do not face directly. This report lays out the wide-gaped spectrum of fiscal statuses within one of the wealthiest states in America," said Wilda Diaz, Mayor of the City of Perth Amboy.
“I am grateful to the John S. Watson Institute at Thomas Edison University, the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, HJA Strategies, and the Anti-Poverty Network for their exhaustive analysis on the history and causes of urban poverty and how it gets concentrated and perpetuated in urban cities throughout New Jersey, including the City of Bridgeton,” said Albert B. Kelly, Mayor of the City of Bridgeton. “I am even more appreciative of the recommendations that were shared with the communities featured in the report. Now it is up to us, both in the impacted communities and at the state level, to begin mapping a strategy to make systemic changes so we can restore our urban communities to a more prosperous and growth-oriented future.”
The report recommends a number of systemic changes to break the cycle of concentrated poverty:
Strengthening the safety-net for poverty-stricken families and their children.
Addressing the budgetary system that unfairly burdens both income-strapped families and impoverished municipalities.
Promoting family financial success through supportive work/family policies, adjusting the allocation of municipal budget State aid and support programming so that it prioritizes areas of concentrated need, and reimagining the fundamental structure of New Jersey’s property tax system.
“A civil society embraces the duty of caring for all of its people,” said Barbara Johnson, Executive Director of the John S. Watson Institute of Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University. “I believe that this report sheds a light on the state of poor people in New Jersey and specifically the long history of bad policies and limited investments that lead to concentrated poverty in urban areas. We hope that it lays the foundation for dialogue that will lead to real solutions that provide safety nets to families when needed but more importantly, lead them out of poverty permanently.”