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“We’ve lost so many jobs,” said Ned Murray, director of the Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. “The question is, where do those workers go?” An economic shock such as COVID-19 causes industries to restructure and invest in cost-saving technology — which usually means fewer workers, Murray said. He pointed to the Great Recession of 2008 when banks began to increasingly rely on contract workers.

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“Hurricane Andrew cut across the state and stayed south,” said Dr. Ned Murray, associate director of FIU’s Metropolitan Center. “If Hurricane Irma had kept its projected track, which at one point had it going straight up the I-95 corridor, you’re looking at at least 258,000 properties and nearly a million people living in substandard units that would have been highly vulnerable.”

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UnidosUS, Centro Campesino, and the Jorge M. Pérez FIU Metropolitan Join Together to Host a National Webinar on the Growing Local and National Affordable Housing Challenges in the COVID Economy

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“Lower income households do spend most of [their stimulus] money because they have to purchase the necessities, like food and medicine,” said Ned Murray, associate director of the Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center. “So you know that if they are getting assistance, they are putting it back into the economy — more so than say wealthy people who can afford to save that money or redirect it to other sources.”

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Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Florida’s unemployment rate hovered around three percent. But as businesses closed down and people were told to stay home, the jobless numbers rose. In July, unemployment in Miami-Dade was around 14 percent, according to the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University

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Demands on nonprofits continue to increase, yet according to FIU Metropolitan Center’s recent economic impact report, more than 30% of local organizations have had to lay off staff, over half are expecting major decreases in donations, and a majority expect revenue losses of up to 75% due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

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“I think we need to look at gentrification in Miami in particular as cancer,” said Murray. ”It’s these first levels of investment that come in the community from the outside. It doesn’t belong there, just like a tumor doesn’t belong there.”

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“Those who can — the wealthy and wealthier retirees — will not stick around northern states in the cold winter and beyond while being shut in by the pandemic,” says Ned Murray, associate director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center. “This could have a significant impact on the housing supply, which is already getting tight.”

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With some exceptions, mostly Black neighborhoods in Miami-Dade are typically places of concentrated poverty and unemployment, said Ned Murray, associate director of the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. The center creates an economic scorecard for the county covering 17 majority-Black areas.

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Today, the streets still hum with a vibrancy born of the community’s Black roots, but unlike Harlem, Overtown has not been revitalized. Much of the town’s residents were displaced in the 1960s when construction of I-95 and I-395 tore through the heart of the community. And nearly 40 percent of residents live in poverty, according to a 2016 study from the FIU Metropolitan Center.

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