Intersections of Poverty
The upstate press is covering an important story-- the need to increase the non-shelter portion of the public assistance grant. The public assistance grant is the amount of money that families have for transportation, clothes, food when food stamps run out and other household necessities. Families living at or below 50% of the poverty line are hard pressed to stabilize and move their families to income security.
As Dan Osburn of the Poughkeepsie Journal reports, “Monthly welfare grants should be increased from $291 for a family of three to $475, religious leaders said Tuesday. Mark Dunlea of the network said despite declining numbers of people on welfare, the basic welfare grant is still too small.”
Osburn writes, “The leaders of Faith and Hunger Network said low payments to estimated 530,000 New Yorkers on welfare, which haven’t been raised in 17 years, lead to hunger and homelessness, excessive reliance on food pantries, and poor living conditions.” They are not the only people hungry because poverty is a comprehensive problem.
The Food Bank for New York City has a new report that illustrates how the number of people using emergency food providers is increasing. “NYC Hunger Safety Net 2007: A food Poverty Focus,” declares that 1.3 million NYC residents rely on EFP’s. That is a 24% increase from 2004. The increase in numbers is across the board - from seniors, to children, to adults working and still not able to make ends meet.
The number of people receiving welfare has decreased over the last ten years but poverty and the ability to make ends meet even for families over 100% of poverty has not increased. How is that possible? Right now poverty is a little over $17,000 for a family of 3. For that same family in NYC to be able to sustain itself without income supports it would take a salary of $50,000.
The accepted conservative think tank policy rhetoric has that people were poor because they were not working and earning a salary. Members of the grassroots and other progressives have disputed that chestnut. Then the NYC Mayor’s poverty task force concluded people were poor because they don’t earn enough. Well, ok.
But then, what’s a policy maker to do? Helping the working poor attain higher wages with benfits are key ingredients to a policy solution. For example, living wages for home health care workers or child care workers, etc. We need to see some strategic long term policy proposals here. Policies that show we understand poverty at all its intersections.