What Did You Do in the War on Poverty?

Always fighting the good fight, Miami's politicians have been tireless in assisting the city's poor huddled masses

image Angel Gonzalez
City Commissioner
2001 to present
I have not yet begun to fight poverty as an elected official, but I did a lot to address poverty when I was president of the Allapattah Business Development Authority. I helped create jobs and low-income housing for residents living in Allapattah. For example, we assisted Balsan Inc., a local retailer, go from 10 employees in 1980 to 100 employees and $10 million in annual sales today. We also assisted in the expansion of the La Mia supermarkets, which employ 140 people in my district. We also assisted in the development of several low-income housing projects such as the Fern Isle Gardens condominiums and the Ralph Plaza Towers. [Ralph Plaza Towers remains uncompleted.] At Fern Isle, people were able to buy by putting up a down payment of five percent of the condo's sale price. Today they pay an average of $400 a month, including maintenance. That created an average savings of $400 a month for low-income housing considering rents for a three-bedroom apartment averaged $800 a month.

image Manny Diaz
Mayor
2001 to present
One of the things we've been working on is maximizing existing resources for Miami's poor. For instance, if your family earns less than $32,000 a year, you can claim an earned-income tax credit. In conjunction with Miami-Dade County, the Human Services Coalition, and the Knight Foundation, we're using $250,000 for a major grassroots campaign to educate Miami residents about this tax credit, which has an average return of $1500. That's a pretty sizable amount of money. For people who are working poor or have a tough time making ends meet, a windfall of $1500 at the end of the year is a significant amount of money. Then you get people to save some of that money to provide a government match for home ownership, or pay off credit debt. I'm also looking at home ownership. We're looking at how we can improve the delivery of affordable housing, which has been much maligned in the press over the years. I'm working toward starting some type of interlocal agreement between the county and the city on how to fund affordable housing. Another thing is to help people become entrepreneurs. To support new entrepreneurs and existing small-business owners, the city will underwrite a new microlending effort. The city's small investment will help leverage $1.7 million in private loan capital and provide entrepreneurs much-needed access to legal and technical assistance. As a major employer within the community, the city will also make a concerted effort to explore adoption of a living-wage ordinance.

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