Federal Reserve Banks across the country collect anecdotes from contacts and hone in on concerns for Federal Reserve Beige Book summaries, published eight times each year. Historically, insights about conditions affecting low- and moderate-income communities have come from the perspective of businesses. In September 2022, several Reserve Banks began including “Community Conditions” and “Community Perspectives” sections. These sections provide insight into local changes through direct accounts of nonprofit and community leaders and workforce professionals serving lower-income people. Here are some takeaways from the July 2023 Beige Book, which was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and based on information collected on or before June 30, 2023.
Please note that the Beige Book summarizes comments received from contacts outside the Federal Reserve and is not a commentary on the views of Federal Reserve officials.
“Contacts noted that shortfalls in community services are worsening food insecurity, homelessness, and public safety. Community leaders expressed concerns about the inadequacy of the region’s mental health care system. Contacts expressed the need for supportive housing units that are integrated with social services and medical support for addiction treatment and mental health care. Non-profits reported working with hospitals that own large real estate portfolios to develop sites for middle-income and supportive housing, though elevated construction costs and strained supply chains have hindered progress on this front.”
– New York Fed, Federal Reserve 2nd District, Community Perspectives
“Community organizations reported a sharp increase in the number of families seeking food assistance recently, with one noting that it had seen a 35 percent jump since March. Multiple contacts said that the loss of pandemic-era Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in March, along with elevated food prices, contributed to the increase. One food pantry operator said, “people are experiencing food insecurity more now than I have seen in my seven years with the organization.” Some organizations were forced to limit the frequency of visits and quantity of food provided to households, exacerbating the strain on struggling families. Looking forward, some contacts expected food insecurity to rise further during the summer as families whose children received free and reduced lunches during the school year seek additional support.”
– Cleveland Fed, Federal Reserve 4th District, Community Conditions
“Community, nonprofit, and small business support contacts reported little change in activity, which was at a robust level. That said, there were signs the economy was cooling. State government officials saw slowing growth in tax revenues and a small increase in demand for unemployment insurance. High interest rates were challenging Community Development Finance Institutions’ efforts to lend at affordable rates to low- and moderate-income borrowers, including small businesses and prospective homeowners. Contacts offering small business services, in particular to small manufacturers, reported that a lack of workers remained an important issue and was holding back production. At the same time, contacts engaged with low wage workers stressed that wages were too low to meet daily needs in the face of rising costs, particularly for housing.”
– Chicago Fed, Federal Reserve 7th District, Community Conditions
“Small and micro businesses continued to experience financial difficulties due to the rising cost of inputs and hiring constraints. Contacts reported recent financial challenges caused them to increasingly access non-traditional forms of credit with higher interest rates, such as credit cards and online lending platforms. Moreover, a growing number of businesses reported paying only their minimum credit card payment, or missing payments completely, which has negatively impacted their credit reports. While distressed financial conditions limited access to loans from traditional lenders, community development financial institutions reported strength in the ability to provide loans with rates below 10% for qualified borrowers.”
– Kansas City Fed, Federal Reserve 10th District, Community Conditions
“Nonprofits noted increased demand for their services. Housing instability and affordability remained a top concern, and several contacts said that inflation and gentrification of neighborhoods has made housing costs, including property taxes, unaffordable for low to moderate income households. As a result, some are doubling up and living with other families in the same home. Fundraising was a challenge for some nonprofits, and a contact noted that the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were running low. A nonprofit said age restrictions on certain program funding was making it challenging to provide services to other age groups. House Bill 8 recently passed by the Texas legislature will add about $680 million in the state budget for community colleges.”
– Dallas Fed, Federal Reserve 11th District, Community Perspectives
“Conditions in the community support and services sector remained mixed. Some contacts in education, housing services, and community support reported stable or improving conditions for funding and hiring. At the same time, representatives from small businesses and community banks mentioned more limited availability of funds. Contacts across the District reiterated difficulties meeting the demand for support services, and several continued to report the persistence of housing insecurity and homelessness. Contacts in Alaska highlighted ongoing shortages of police services and childcare providers.”
– San Francisco Fed, Federal Reserve 12th District, Community Conditions
Visit the July 2023 Beige Book report for a full national summary and more information about economic conditions from each Reserve Bank, including labor markets, financial services, real estate, and more.