A recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston confirms that limited job opportunities and federal, state, and local budget cuts pose significant problems for low and moderate-income communities and the organizations that serve them. Asked to identify the top 3 challenges facing low- and moderate- ncome communities in New England, the availability of job opportunities ranked at the top (69% of respondents) while state and local budget cuts (42%) and federal budget cuts (38%) ranked second and third respectively. These were followed by access to affordable housing (34%), adult workforce development (23%), and K-12 education (18%).
Perhaps more troubling, the survey shows that most indicators are moving in the wrong direction compared to a year ago and to the 2nd quarter of 2011.
Full disclosure, I serve on the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Community Development Advisory Committee. Unfortunately, today’s Maine Economic Forecast for 2012 from Muskie School of Public Service and noted economist Charles Colgan presents an even bleaker picture.
Clearly, jobs and support for the people struggling to make ends meet in this brutal economic climate will remain in the forefront of public policy debate here in Maine for the foreseeable future. The current debate over the LePage Administration’s proposal to cut $220 million in cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services budget is a test of the direction Maine will take toward these challenges. We have the capacity to respond to these challenges in a way that minimizes the recession’s impact on Mainers, creates jobs, and enhances future economic prospects. Doing so requires our political leaders to move beyond ideology and anecdotes to craft solutions that are based on credible information and analysis.