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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Poverty in Massachusetts and the USA

In September, the US Census Bureau released the 2006 Federal Poverty Level (FPL) which reported that the FPL for a family of three to be considered “living in poverty” is $16,079. This is no where near what it takes a family of three in Massachusetts to get by. The application of the FPL is widespread. Food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, subsidized housing, child care vouchers, WIC, all of these programs are based on the FPL, an antiquated formula created 40 years ago when families spent 1/3 of their income on food. The FPL does not take into consideration housing, transportation, taxes, childcare, or family type nor does it account for regional cost variations. In Massachusetts it is especially important that the FLP does not take into account housing costs, since our housing costs are among the hightest in the nation.

A more realistic measure of a family’s ability to provide basic goods necessary for survival is the Massachusetts Family Economic Self-Sufficiency (FESS) Standard which does take into account family type and geographic location. According to FESS, an adult with a preschool and a school aged child living in Boston actually needs to earn $58,133 a year to be self-sufficient with NO GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS. $58,000 a year! This is nearly 3 times the FPL and does not include “luxuries” such as clothing, school supplies, entertainment, etc.

The difference between the FPL and FESS shows us that a larger proportion of women and families than poverty figures indicate are living in poverty. To combat this we must continue to advocate for the continuation and expansion of education and workforce training programs so we can prepare women for careers that pay a self-sufficient wage which will lead them to a life of economic independence.

Every year, more women and families fall into poverty in MA, and yet the FPL never changes. Houses are foreclosed upon, people line up for food pantries that can barely provide enough food to eat, and in the general pubic, this insanity is ignored. There are few politicians even willing to discuss poverty in America. There are even fewer that want to discuss the FPL and how archaic it is. But as long as the government closes it's eyes to the root of poverty, well, nothing is going to change. Upping the minimum wage has absolutely NO impact on the FPL and does little to anything to help those living in poverty. Unless the 'safety net' is recognized to have major holes in it, poverty will continue to grow in MA and the rest of the country, and the safety net will continue to be virtually worthless since so few families actually qualify with a FPL level so low.

What can you do? Write to your congressmen and senators and ask them to please consider rewriting the FPL to take into consideration the cost of living, including housing costs. That alone would make a huge change towards changing the poverty rates throughout the country and Massachusetts.

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1 Comments:

Blogger PeetSwea said...

Found you through NaBloPoMo. Excellent post, but so very sad that the FPL is dreadfully out of date. I'll get on the horn to my congressmen...

8/10/07 7:56 PM  

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