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POST PANDEMIC SHIFT IN HOMELESS SHELTER POLICIES

New York Congressman Ritchie Torres joins us tonight to discuss his focused efforts in Washington onto fighting homelessness, child poverty and gun violence.

AIRED: July 29, 2021 | 0:16:10
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TRANSCRIPT

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS."

I'M RAFAEL P. ROMAN.

MOST OF US HAVE BEEN HIT HARD BY

THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.

BUT OF COURSE THE HARDEST HIT

HAVE BEEN AMERICANS LIVING IN

POVERTY AND PARTICULARLY

AMERICANS OF COLOR LIVING IN

POVERTY.

IN THE BRONX AS WELL AS IN OTHER

PARTS OF NEW YORK CITY, THE

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT OF

THE PANDEMIC HAS BEEN

DEVASTATING.

BUT THE QUESTION IS CAN ANYTHING

OF PERMANENCY BE DONE ABOUT

THAT?

NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN RICHEY

TOREZ WHO REPRESENTS THE 15th

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IN THE

BRONX BELIEVED THAT IT CAN.

HE HAS FOCUSSED MOST OF HIS

ENERGY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

AGAINST FIGHTING THREE OF THE

EVILS THAT PREDATE AND HAVE BEEN

AGGRAVATED BY THE PANDEMIC,

HOMELESSNESS, CHILD POVERTY AND

GUN VIOLENCE.

JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT HIS

EFFORTS IS CONGRESSMAN RICHEY

TOREZ.

>> ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

>> SO, CONGRESSMAN, YOU, ALONG

WITH CONGRESSWOMAN MAX ZONE

WATERS HAVE INTRODUCED A BILL

CALLED THE ENDING HOMELESSNESS

ACT OF 2021.

THAT'S A BOLD TITLE.

BUT WHAT EXACTLY DOES THE BILL

AIM TO DO?

HOW EXACTLY ARE YOU GOING TO

HELP END HOMELESSNESS?

>> WELL, HERE IN NEW YORK CITY,

THERE ARE MORE THAN 50,000

PEOPLE IN OUR SHELTER SYSTEM.

A THIRD OF WHOM WERE CHILDREN.

SO LET THAT SINK IN FOR A

MOMENT.

THERE ARE CHILDREN GROWING UP IN

THE WEALTHIEST CITY AND COUNTRY

IN THE WORLD WHO HAVE NEVER

KNOWN LIFE OUTSIDE OF SHELTER.

AND AMERICA IS BECOMING SO

DANGEROUSLY UNAFFORDABLE THAT

THERE ARE SEVEN MILLION

AMERICANS, INCLUDING HALF A

MILLION NEW YORKERS WHO ARE

BEHIND ON THEIR RENT AND WHO

FACE AN IMMINENT DANGER OF

EVICTION THE MOMENT THE

MORATORIUM EXPIRES.

EVEN WORSE, ACCORDING TO THE

NATIONAL LOW-INCOME HOUSING

COALITION, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE

COUNTY IN AMERICA WHERE A

FULL-TIME LOW-WAGE WORKER CAN

AFFORD A TWO-BEDROOM APARTMENT.

AND THERE WERE ONLY 7 OUT OF

3,000 COUNTIES WHERE A FULL-TIME

MINIMUM WAGE WORKER CAN AFFORD A

ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT.

THE GOVERNMENT DEFINES AN

AFFORDABLE RENT AS NO MORE THAN

30% OF YOUR INCOME.

AFFORDING TO THE HARVARD JOINT

CENTER ON HOUSING STUDIES, THERE

ARE 37 MILLION AMERICANS WHO PAY

MORE THAN A THIRD OF THEIR

INCOME TOWARD THEIR RENT.

HALF OF THOSE AMERICANS PAY HALF

OF THEIR INCOME TOWARD THEIR

RENT, PUTTING THEM AT HEIGHTENED

RISK OF DISPLACEMENT AND

EVICTION AND GENTRIFICATION.

SO I AM INTRODUCING LEGISLATION

THAT WOULD UNIVERSALLY EXPAND

THE HOUSING VOW CHUR PROGRAM AND

ENSURE THAT EVERY FAMILY IN

NEED, EVERY FAMILY STRUGGLING

WITH HOMELESSNESS OR HOUSING

SECURITY WOULD HAVE ACCESS TO A

VOUCHER WHICH GUARANTEES THAT

YOU PAY NO MORE THAN 30% OF YOUR

INCOME TOWARD YOUR RENT.

IN MY VIEW, THE HOUSING VOUCHERS

FOR ALL WOULD BRING US CLOSER

THAN WE HAVE EVER BEEN TO ENDING

HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA.

>> THAT'S WHAT IT'S CALLED,

SECTION 8 VOUCHERS.

FEDERAL VOUCHERS?

>> YEAH.

SECTION 8 OR HOUSING VOUCHERS.

HOUSING VOUCHERS.

>> SO THIS WILL OBVIOUSLY BE FOR

THE WHOLE COUNTRY.

BUT LET'S FOCUS AGAIN, AS YOU

HAVE ON NEW YORK CITY.

HOW WILL IT TRANSFORM THE

REALITY OF THE PEOPLE THAT YOU

TALK ABOUT HERE IN NEW YORK

CITY?

HOW MANY MORE WOULD HAVE ACCESS

TO THESE VOUCHERS?

>> SO IF WE WERE TO PASS THE

LEGISLATION, THE IMPLEMENTATION

WOULD UNFOLD OVER THE COURSE OF

EIGHT YEARS.

AND 1.3 HOUSEHOLDS IN NEW YORK

STATE WOULD BENEFIT FROM THE

PROGRAM.

>> SO, CONGRESSMAN, HOW WOULD

YOU RESPOND TO SOMEONE WHO MIGHT

SAY OR PROBABLY HAS ALREADY SAID

THAT THIS IS A VERY SUBSTANTIAL

PROGRAM AND A VERY IMPORTANT

BILL.

BUT IF YOU REALLY WANT TO END

HOMELESSNESS IN THIS COUNTRY,

YOU JUST GOT TO HAVE A MUCH

LARGER NUMBER OF AFFORDABLE

HOUSING.

YOU GOT TO BUILD A LOT MORE

AFFORDABLE HOUSES ALL OVER THE

COUNTRY.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

>> IT'S NOT EITHER/OR.

IT'S BOTH/AND.

WE HAVE TO BUILD FOR HOUSING,

BUT WE HAVE TO ENSURE THE

HOUSING WE BUILD IS AFFORDABLE

TO THE LOWEST INCOME OF

AMERICANS.

THE MOST COMMON QUESTION THAT

COMES TO MIND IS AFFORDABLE FOR

WHOM?

>> YEAH.

>> THE REALITY IS THAT MOST OF

THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING THE

GOVERNMENT CREATES IS

UNAFFORDABLE TO THE POOREST

AMERICANS.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DEFINES

60% OF AMI AS LOW-INCOME

HOUSING.

60% OF AMI IS WELL ABOVE $60,000

A YEAR, WHICH IS MORE THAN

DOUBLE THE MEDIAN INCOME IN THE

SOUTH BRONX.

SO WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

CONSIDERS LOW-INCOME HOUSING IS

FAR BEYOND THE REACH OF MOST

LOW-INCOME PEOPLE IN PLACES LIKE

THE SOUTH BRONX.

SO A SECTION 8 VOUCHER WOULD

ENSURE THAT AFFORDABLE HOUSING

IS DEEPLY AFFORDABLE,

UNIVERSALLY AFFORDABLE,

AFFORDABLE TO THOSE IN GREATEST

NEED.

>> SO HOW MUCH WOULD THIS BILL,

IF ENACTED INTO LAW, HOW MUCH

WOULD IT COST?

I'M GUESSING A LOT OF YOUR

COLLEAGUES ARE CONCERNED ABOUT

THAT.

I'M GUESSING THIS IS PROBABLY

THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO GETTING

THIS BILL PASSED.

>> PUT THE COST IN CONTEXT.

SO THE COST OF INCARCERATION ON

RUTGERS ISLAND IS ABOUT A HALF A

MILLION DOLLARS PER INMATE EVERY

YEAR.

THE COST OF SHELTER FOR A FAMILY

IS UPWARD OF $70,000 EVERY YEAR

AS OF 2017 AND $38,000 FOR A

SINGLE ADULT.

BY CONTRAST, THE COST OF HOUSING

VOUCHERS FOR ALL PER PERSON

EVERY YEAR IS $7,500.

RIGHT?

AFFORDABLE HOUSING, PERMANENT

STABLE HOUSING IS MORE COST

EFFECTIVE THAN HOSPITALIZATION

OR TEMPORARY SHELTER OR

INCARCERATION.

SO WHEN YOU PUT IT IN CONTEXT,

IT IS ONE OF THE BEST

INVESTMENTS THAT WE CAN MAKE.

>> SO CONVENTIONAL WISDOM AS YOU

PROBABLY KNOW THAT COME THE

MIDTERM ELECTIONS NEXT YEAR, THE

REPUBLICANS HAVE A VERY GOOD

CHANCE OF TAKING CONTROL OF THE

HOUSE.

AGAIN, DOES THAT PUT PRESSURE ON

YOU AND YOUR CO-SPONSORS TO GET

THIS BILL PASSED THIS YEAR?

>> MY PHILOSOPHY IN LIFE IS TO

HOPE FOR THE BEST BUT PREPARE

FOR THE WORST.

WE HAVE LESS THAN A YEAR AND A

HALF TO ACCOMPLISH AS MUCH AS WE

CAN.

IN MY VIEW, WE ARE IN THE MIDST

OF AN FDR MOMENT.

WE HAVE A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY

TO GOVERN AS BOLDLY IN THE 21st

CENTURY AS FDR DID.

AND IF WE FAIL TO STRIKE WHEN

THE IRON IS HOT, THEN WE WOULD

HAVE LOST A ONCE IN A CENTURY

OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE THE LIVES

OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

>> WILL IT PASS?

WILL THIS BILL PASS THE HOUSE

AND THE SENATE?

WILL IT BECOME LAW?

>> LOOK, IT IS A LONGER TERM

FIGHT, BUT I'M HOPEFUL WE CAN

GET COMPONENTS OF THE BILL IN

THE $3.5 TRILLION RECONCILIATION

BILL THAT WE'RE GOING TO PASS IN

THE FALL.

I'M HOPEFUL THAT THE

RECONCILIATION BILL WILL INCLUDE

A HISTORIC EXPANSION OF THE

SECTION 8 PROGRAM.

SO THAT BILL IS GOING TO BE A

DOWN PAYMENT ON WHAT IS GOING TO

BE A LONGER TERM VISION.

>> SO YOU'RE ALSO WORKING TO

MAKE THE CURRENT CHILD TAX

CREDIT PERMANENT?

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS THE CHILD

TAX CREDIT?

HOW WELL HAS IT WORKED IN

REDUCING CHILD POVERTY?

AND WHY ISN'T IT PERMANENT

ALREADY?

>> SO THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN

EXPANDED THE CHILD TAX CREDIT BY

ONE YEAR.

THE PRESIDENT IS PROPOSING AN

EXPANSION UNTIL 2025.

I'M ADVOCATING A PERMANENT

EXPANSION BECAUSE IN MY VIEW, A

PERMANENT PROGRESSIVE CHILD TAX

CREDIT WOULD BE TO FAMILIES WITH

CHILDREN WHAT SOCIAL SECURITY

HAS LONG BEEN TO SENIOR

CITIZENS.

IT WOULD REPRESENT A PERMANENT

BREAKTHROW AGAINST POVERTY IN

AMERICA.

WITHOUT SOCIAL SECURITY UP TO

40% OF SENIOR CITIZENS WOULD BE

LANGUISHING IN POVERTY.

UNLIKE MOST TAX CREDITS, WHICH

TEND TO BE DISPERSED ANNUALLY,

THE CHILD TAX CREDIT OPERATES

LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY FOR

FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN.

FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN RECEIVE

UP TO $300 PER CHILD EVERY

SINGLE MONTH, WHICH MEANS MORE

MONEY TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE,

PAY THE BILLS AND KEEP YOUR

FAMILY AFLOAT.

IT MAKES AMERICA MUCH MORE

AFFORDABLE FOR FAMILIES AND

CHILDREN.

>> NOW, THE PRESIDENT IS

PROPOSING TO EXTEND IT ONLY TO

2025.

AND FROM WHAT I READ, HE'S DOING

THAT BECAUSE HE DOESN'T BELIEVE

HE HAS THE SUPPORT.

I'M GUESSING FROM REPUBLICANS.

TO BE MORE AMBITIOUS.

IT'S A POLITICAL CALCULATION.

DO YOU DISAGREE WITH THAT

CALCULATION?

>> I DISAGREE WITH THE

CALCULATION BECAUSE IT IS --

THERE IS NO POLICY THAT WOULD DO

MORE TO LIFT AMERICANS OUT OF

POVERTY THAN AN EXPANSION OF THE

CHILD TAX CREDIT WHICH CUT CHILD

POVERTY BY 50%.

FOR ME THE CHILD TAX CREDIT IS

TO PRESIDENT BIDEN WHAT MEDICARE

WAS TO LINDEN JOHNSON, WHAT

SOCIAL SECURITY HAD BEEN TO FDR.

FDR NEVER PUT AN EXPIRATION DATE

ON SOCIAL SECURITY.

LYNDON JOHNSON NEVER PUT AN

EXPIRATION DATE ON MEDICARE.

WHY SHOULD PRESIDENT BIDEN PUT

AN EXPIRATION DATE ON WHAT WILL

UNDOUBTEDLY BECOME HIS GREATEST

LEGACY, HIS GREATEST

CONTRIBUTION TO THE AMERICAN

SOCIAL CONTRACT.

>> NOW, RIGHT NOW AS THE TAX

CREDIT WORKS, A MARRIED COUPLE

CAN GET THE FULL TAX CREDIT.

YOU HAVE HAD COLLEAGUES IN THE

HOUSE WHO HAVE PREVIOUSLY

PROPOSED THAT THE CAP BE LOWERED

TO $150,000.

NOW THAT DOESN'T SEEM TO BE ON

THE TABLE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.

SHOULD IT BE?

>> WELL, KEEP IN MIND THAT THOSE

WITH LOWER INCOMES RECEIVE A

MUCH MORE GENEROUS TAX CREDIT.

BUT YOU CAN RECEIVE A PARTIAL

TAX CREDIT FOR HOUSEHOLD INCOMES

UP TO $400,000.

BUT THAT'S NO DIFFERENT FOR

MEDICARE, NO DIFFERENT FROM

SOCIAL SECURITY.

THE STRONGEST SOCIAL PROGRAMS

TEND TO BE EITHER UNIVERSAL OR

BROADLY AVAILABLE.

>> YEAH, YEAH.

SO WHAT'S THE LIKELIHOOD THAT

THIS WILL BE MADE PERMANENT?

AS YOU SAID IT IS A BIG DEAL.

>> WE ARE GOING TO KEEP

FIGHTING.

WE ARE SUPREMELY CONFIDENT THAT

IT WILL BE EXPANDED FOR THE LONG

TERM.

BUT WHETHER IT'S GOING TO BE

MADE PERMANENT WILL REMAIN AN

OPEN QUESTION.

BUT EVEN IF IT'S EXPANDED ONLY

FOR FOUR OR FIVE YEARS, IT'S

GOING TO BE MUCH HARDER TO UNDO

IT THAN IT WILL BE TO DO IT

BECAUSE IT IS A WILDLY POPULAR

PROGRAM AMONG THE AMERICAN

PEOPLE.

>> OKAY.

SO LET'S TURN TO THE ISSUE OF

CRIME AND GUN VIOLENCE.

AS IT HAPPENS, SHOOTINGS AND

MURDERS WERE DOWN IN NEW YORK

CITY LAST MONTH FROM THE

PREVIOUS MONTH AND FROM JUNE OF

2020.

HOWEVER, THE CRIME IS STILL

GOING UP IN SHOOTING.

UP TO LAST MONTH WERE SURGING.

WHAT CAN -- ASSUMING THAT THE

DROP LAST MONTH IS NOT A

NATIONAL TREND AND NOBODY IS

SAYING IT IS, WHAT CAN

WASHINGTON, D.C., DO ABOUT THIS?

>> PUBLIC SAFETY IS A PRIORITY

FOR ME.

THE SOUTH BRONX HAS BEEN GROUND

ZERO FOR AN OUTBREAK OF GUN

VIOLENCE AND GANG VIOLENCE AND

YOUTH VIOLENCE.

THE MURDER RATE IS UP BY MORE

THAN 40% IN THE SOUTH BRONX.

THE NUMBER OF SHOOTING DEATHS BY

MORE THAN 60ERS.

THE NUMBER OF SHOOTING INCIDENTS

BY MORE THAN 40%.

THE INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

PRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO

ADDRESS THE STRUCTURAL BARRIERS

TO ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR OUR

YOUNG PEOPLE.

THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF YOUNG

PEOPLE WHO EITHER DON'T GO TO

SCHOOL, WHO DON'T GO TO WORK,

WHOSE ONLY EXISTENCE IS LIFE ON

THE STREETS, AND THOSE YOUNG

PEOPLE ARE VULNERABLE TO GANG

RECRUITMENT.

I SEE THE INVESTMENT AS A

HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE

ALTERNATIVES FOR OUR YOUNG

PEOPLE, ALTERNATIVES TO LIFE ON

THE STREETS.

MORE PROGRAMMING, MORE YOUTH

EMPLOYMENT, MORE ALTERNATIVES TO

GANG VIOLENCE.

THAT'S ONE.

NUMBER TWO, WE NEED FEDERAL GUN

SAFETY.

GUN REGULATION AT THE STATE AND

LOCAL LEVEL CAN ONLY TAKE YOU SO

FAR BECAUSE GUNS MOVE ACROSS

STRAIGHT LINES.

IT IS THE KIND OF INTERSTATE

COMMERCE THAT SHOULD BE

REGULATED BY THE FEDERAL

GOVERNMENT.

WE OUGHT TO REGULATE THE SAFETY

OF GUNS JUST LIKE AUTOMOBILES.

WHEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

BEGAN REGULATING AUTOMOBILES,

WHICH CAN BE DANGEROUS LIKE

GUNS, THERE HAS BEEN A DRAMATIC

PLUMMET ON THE FATALITIES ON THE

ROAD.

MY GOAL IS NOT TO E RAID KATE

GUNS.

MY GOAL IS TO MAKE THEM SAFER.

IN A RATIONAL WORLD, EVERY GUN

WOULD BE REGISTERED AND SAFELY

STORED.

EVERY GUN OWNER WOULD BE

LICENSED AND PROFESSIONALLY

TRAINED.

BUT THERE IS NOTHING RATIONAL

ABOUT A POLITICAL SYSTEM THAT

ENABLES ONE U.S. SENATOR FROM A

STATE SMALLER THAN MY

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT TO

FILIBUSTER GUN SAFETY AT THE

EXPENSE OF 300 MILLION

AMERICANS.

NOT EVEN THE MURDER OF

ELEMENTARY CHILDREN IN SANDY

HOOK WAS ENOUGH TO BREAK THE

IRON GRIP OF THE FILIBUSTER IN

WASHINGTON, D.C.

I SEE THE FILIBUSTER AS THE ROOT

OF ALL EVIL, ESPECIALLY ON THE

SUBJECT OF GUN SAFETY.

>> WHILE THE FILIBUSTER IS STILL

IN EFFECT, WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES

THAT THAT COULD HAPPEN?

>> LOOK, IN THE SHORT TERM WE

HAVE TO MAKE INVESTMENTS IN OUR

YOUNG PEOPLE TO CREATE AN

ALTERNATIVE TO GUN VIOLENCE.

AND WE HAVE TO RE-THINK THE

NOTION, THE POLICY OF DEFUNDING

THE POLICE.

MOST AMERICANS WANT A REFORM

RATHER THAN DEFUND POLICE.

MOST AMERICANS WANT NEITHER MORE

POLICING OR LESS POLICING, BUT

BETTER POLICING, MORE EFFECTIVE

AND TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE

POLICING.

AND THAT'S WHAT WE SHOULD BE

AIMING FOR.

>> HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD THAT

DECISION SINCE THE DEFUND THE

POLICE MOVEMENT CAME UP A YEAR

AGO?

I ASK BECAUSE YOU JOINED YOUR

COLLEAGUES WHEN YOU WERE STILL

IN CITY COUNCIL TO VOTE TO CUT A

BILLION DOLLARS FROM THE NYPD.

OR HAS IT BEEN THE RESULTS THAT

YOU HAVE SEEN OVER THE LAST YEAR

THAT HAVE BROUGHT YOU TO THIS?

>> KEEP IN MIND THAT THE

SUPPORTERS OF THE DEFUND

MOVEMENT WERE AGAINST THE BUDGET

BECAUSE THEIR VIEW IS THAT IT

DID NOT GENUINELY DEFUND THE

NYPD BY A BILLION DOLLARS.

WE DID FUND A BUDGET THAT CUTS

ACROSS THE BOARD BECAUSE WE WERE

IN THE MIDST OF AN ECONOMIC

CRISIS, THE LIKES WHICH WE HAD

NOT SEEN BEFORE.

WE HAD RUN OUT OF REVENUES AND

WE HAD MADE ACROSS THE BOARD

BUDGET CUTS.

BUT WHEN I MEAN DEFUND THE

POLICE, I'M REFERRING TO THERE

IS A PROPOSAL IN NEW YORK CITY

TO CUT THE NYPD'S BUDGET BY 50%.

AND THE NOTION OF DEFUNDING THE

NYPD BY 50% OR ABOLISHING IT

ALTOGETHER IS DANGEROUSED IN

MIDST OF GUN VIOLENCE AND YOUTH

VIOLENCE.

>> WE ONLY HAVE 30 SECONDS LEFT.

I KNOW ERIC ADAMS WAS NOT YOUR

NUMBER ONE CANDIDATE, BUT HE

DID, YOU KNOW, CAMPAIGN E

ESPECIALLY OVER THE LAST FEW

WEEKS AGAINST CRIME AND GUN

VIOLENCE.

ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT HE HAS

THE RIGHT DECISIONS AND THAT

HE'LL DO IT RIGHT?

>> HE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A

UNIFYING FIGURE IN A MOMENT OF

DIVISION BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHAT

IT IS LIKE TO BE A YOUNG BLACK

MAN WHO HAS BEEN OVERPOLICED BUT

HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A

POLICE OFFICER.

AND HE CAN UNIFY US THROUGH THE

POWER OF HIS LIVED EXPERIENCE.

>> CONGRESSMAN, WE HAVE TO END

IT THERE.

I SHOULD TELL OUR VIEWERS THAT

YOU WERE SICK, BUT YOU CAME IN

ANYWAYS.

>> IT'S ALWAYS A PLEASURE.

TAKE CARE.

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