The statistics are worthy of Detroit or Newark: almost half the children in the local schools are from families poor enough to be eligible for free or cut-price lunches; a tenth of households qualify for food stamps; one in eight residents gets free meals from soup kitchens or food banks; perhaps one in 12 has suffered a recent spell of homelessness. Yet the spot in question is not a benighted rust-belt city, but Sarasota, Florida—a balmy, palm-studded resort town on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of the money for such schemes comes from different local, state and federal government agencies. But all are tightening the purse strings. The county’s revenues have fallen with property values, so it is cutting back. The state, meanwhile, has cut its grants to a local homeless charity by 80% over the past four years. Many of the federal grants come courtesy of the stimulus bill of 2009, and so are quickly drying up. When the federal money runs out, says Carolyn Mason, a county commissioner, “that’s pretty much the end of the road”.
Move along, nothing to see here. The Dow is almost at 12,000 and corporate profits are at record highs.