September 2011: Low and Moderate Income Indicators September 2011: Low and Moderate Income Indicators

September 1, 2011

Top Challenges Top Challenges


Once again, service providers ranked job availability, state and local budget cuts, federal budget cuts, access to affordable housing, and adequate adult workforce development as the top five challenges facing low- and moderate-income communities.

This figure compares respondents’ rankings of the top challenges over time.

Comparision of Top Challenges over Time

Issue Rank
Q4 2011
Q3 2011
Q2 2011*
Availability of employment opportunities 1 1 1
State and local budget cuts 2 2 2
Federal budget cuts 3 3 3
Access to affordable housing 4 4 4
Adult workforce development programs 5 5 7
Increasing homelessness 6 8 8
K - 12 education 7 6 n/a**
Home foreclosures 8 7 5
Negative impact of vacant properties 9 11 11
Credit scores 10 10 9
Access to consumer credit 11 12 6
Other 12.0 13 14
Predatory and/or fraudulent financial services 13 14 12
Access to small business loans 14 9 10
Immigration issues 15 15 13

*We began asking respondents to rank the top challenges facing LMI communities in the second quarter of 2011.

**The Quality of K-12 education category was added in the third quarter of 2011.

Lack of Job Opportunities Lack of Job Opportunities

Most of our indicators pertaining to the conditions of lower-income households improved in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year ago: Financial Well-being, Job Availability, and Access to Credit. The exception was the Availability of Affordable Housing Index, which saw a decline over the period. Indicators pertaining to the conditions of the organizations that serve these households saw a decline as well: Demand for Services, Organization Capacity, and Organization Funding.

“Low- and moderate-income families continue to struggle to provide for basic needs.”
– Eastern Massachusetts

Job Availability Job Availability

Service providers continue to cite job availability as the most important challenge facing LMI communities. Notwithstanding, our Job Availability Index improved in the fourth quarter to a relatively neutral value of -2.1. This improvement brought the index to a full 21 points above its value in the fourth quarter of 2010 (-23.2). Expectations for the next quarter suggest optimism regarding continued improvement in job availability, with more service providers expecting job availability to increase (30.5 percent) than to decrease (20 percent).

“The manufacturing sector appears to have stabilized and is looking for qualified workers. Unfortunately, workforce development cuts have limited training opportunities for these jobs.”
– Southern Maine

Organizational Capacity Organizational Capacity

Of service providers who have managed to maintain capacity over the last 12 months despite funding cuts, 42 percent expect to maintain capacity over the next two years, while 58 percent do not. Most of the latter group explained that this was due to expectations of further public-sector budget cuts and the effect those additional cuts would have on their organizations’ already strained budgets. Service providers explained that further cuts would likely mean that their organizations would have to further reduce the scope of services to clients, reduce the number of clients served, and/or reduce staff.

“We have reduced staff, and those remaining do their best to provide adequate services. However, this cannot be maintained over the long term.”
– Southern New Hampshire

Emerging Issues Emerging Issues

Proposed Healthcare Budget Cuts – A number of service providers operating in Maine expressed concerns over the projected effect on lower-income individuals of the MaineCare/Medicaid budget cuts proposed in December 2011. The cuts are aimed at closing a $121 million shortfall in the state’s Department of Health and Human Services budget.

Escalating Costs of Higher Education – Service providers also cited concerns about the escalating cost of higher education. Several respondents noted the increasing burden higher costs place on lower-income families and the negative effect of higher costs on access for lower-income families.

“The lack of affordable education options is a problem.”
– Northern New Hampshire

About the Survey About the Survey

The Community Outlook Survey continues and deepens our effort to track the conditions of low- and moderate- income people and communities, by asking organizations that work with those populations to comment on their perception of service needs, job availability, affordable housing availability, and access to credit. The survey also includes questions on organizations' capacity and funding situation. Twice a year it asks participants to comment on emerging trends affecting low- and moderate-income people.

The data are intended to provide you and your organization with a longitudinal snapshot of the New England District's community development sector for use in strategic planning, program delivery, and grant-funding applications. At the same time, the data informs the Community Development Unit's outreach and research activities.

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