Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 10, 2009


Washington Post - Slowly but surely, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- better known as the economic stimulus package -- is beginning to percolate nationwide, six weeks after President Obama signed the legislation. Some of the money is arriving quickly, and in big chunks. The country's 1,100 community health clinics have received $337 million to help them handle the surge of newly unemployed and uninsured people needing care. An additional $155 million went to a more select group of 126 of the clinics, including $1.3 million for the Loudoun Community Health Center, which, after opening in 2007, has been seeing an increase in demand even though it is in an affluent area of Northern Virginia.

In most cases, though, the money is working its way into the system far more gradually as officials strive to meet not only existing guidelines for programs receiving aid but also reporting requirements that have been added to make sure that stimulus funding is spent as intended and to account for the jobs it creates.

- Newly released data from the IRS show that only 15% of large financial services companies -- those with $250 million or more in assets -- were audited in 2008, compared with 64% of all other similar sized corporations. And when they were performed, these financial service audits appear to have been less thorough than those in other industries.

In addition, fewer of these audits were being performed by the IRS agency group with special expertise in large financial service corporations, while the number performed by other IRS groups more than doubled since 2004.

Ken Lambert, The Seattle Times - Sporting a black cowboy hat, Gene Sargent steps up to the microphone at Dave's Restaurant in Milton, Pierce County, launching into an old Sons of the Pioneers tune. It conjures up his memories of when he was married the first time, had a wife with long brown hair; was a new father and had a job in Modesto, Calif. - before everything slowly came apart like the seeds of a tumbleweed.

Sargent, 65, who most people know simply as "Sarge," has spent the past four years living in the cab of a pickup in South King County, pulling behind him a camp trailer packed with his life's possessions.

With a Social Security income of less than $700 a month, he can't afford an apartment; RV spaces are difficult to find and even state-park camping spots run $150 a week. So he drifts, parking along side streets in Federal Way, in department-store parking lots and rest areas until police tell him, and many others like him, to move along.

Sargent's situation is typical of what will be increasingly common in coming decades, say national advocates for the homeless.

"The homeless population is graying along with the general population, and we're seeing more elderly people living out their final ... years on the streets," said Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. . .

No statistics are available to tell how many senior citizens spend their last days living in RVs, trucks and campers or trucks and trailers, like Sargent does, moving from parking space to parking space, waiting for Social Security checks, fearful of having their vehicles impounded or being told to leave.

For the most part, they are an invisible group because they are unlikely to ask for services usually available to the homeless, say social-service providers such as those at Federal Way's Multi-Service Center.

Sargent walks into a Wal-Mart store to wash up and have breakfast at a fast-food restaurant inside. "I don't want to be a burden on anyone," he says.

He says he doesn't like staying away from his truck and trailer for long. And he never unhooks the trailer since it might be towed away - and with it "my whole world," he says.

Over breakfast, he talks about his frustration of being booted out of the ample lot where he usually parks next to a sign threatening the owners of unauthorized vehicles with towing.

Although he now spends his days doing crossword puzzles, he once set sprinklers in fields, drove forklifts and loaded potatoes into boxcars. Then came night school and learning to paint cars. . .

He tallies the days until his next Social Security check is deposited in his bank account and he can go to his favorite karaoke bar and sing the old country songs he grew up with. Sometimes women ask him to dance. To them he's just Sarge, the man in the black hat who sings like an old-time cowboy. Few know he's homeless.


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