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Voices Speaking

June 17, 2019

Proposed changes to poverty measure would be less accurate and cut benefits

The Trump Administration is proposing to change how the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure is adjusted annually for inflation.The proposed changes would gradually decrease the poverty line over time, even though inflation has risen faster for low-income households than for households overall.

This is particularly troublesome in a state like Connecticut that has a high cost of living. Here, the federal poverty line is already far below what is needed to raise a family. The United Way’s ALICE report for 2018 noted that a survival budget for a family of four (two adults and two young children) would require $77,832 per year. This basic survival budget is more than three times the 2018 federal poverty limit of $25,100 for a family of four. Yet, 40 percent of families in the state earn less. A more accurate measure would increase the threshold, rather than aligning it with indices that will result in steady decreases.

In addition, evidence suggests that inflation has been rising more sharply for the goods and services purchased by low-income households. For example, low-income people spend a larger than average share of their budgets on housing, and the price of rent rose 31 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the traditional Consumer Price Index (17 percent). The Trump Administration’s proposal would further lower inflation adjustments for the poverty line, making the official poverty measure even more inaccurate.

What would this mean?

Over time, the poverty income limit would gradually decrease. People just below the poverty limit one year would not be the next and so on. As years pass, fewer and fewer families will be eligible for health insurance through the HUSKY Health (Medicaid and CHIP) programs and for food assistance and other supports. Nationwide, by the 10th year of this change, an estimated 300,000 children would lose coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, nearly 200,000 people would lose SNAP benefits, and more than 100,000 school-age children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. (Read more about the impact on health programs and problems with the proposed measure.)

What can we do?

  1. Submit your comments to the Trump Administration opposing this change by Friday, June 21. Our comments are here, in case you would like to use them as a template. Please note that:
    1. The proposal asks that comments not analyze impact on programs. So, we have focused on why this change in methodology would be less accurate.
    2. It is helpful to personalize your comments as much as possible so that they are not dismissed as a simple re-posting.
  2. Let Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, and your U.S. House Representative know why you are opposed to this measure.

 

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health

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