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Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

It’s been a slow recovery. With the January release of CFED’s annual 2014 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, we have further proof of this fact. The report, Treading Water in the Deep End, shows many American families are financially insecure, and this includes a growing number of Oklahomans.

2013_scorecardIn Oklahoma, it is estimated 49% of households live in a persistent state of financial insecurity, with no little or no savings to cover emergencies. This is up from last year’s estimate of 43.8% of Oklahomans who were considered “liquid asset poor.” Poor showings in areas related to income, assets, healthcare and education contributed to Oklahoma’s overall rank of 31, compared to other states.

The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard examines the financial security of Americans by assessing states based on 69 different outcome measures. The measures are grouped into five broader categories: 1) Financial Assets and Income, 2) Business and Jobs; (more…)

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Poverty is not isolated to families where adults are unemployed or underemployed. According to 2011 data from the National Center for Children in Poverty, 33% of children living in poverty in Oklahoma have at least one parent who works full-time, year-round.

Oklahoma also has one of the highest proportions of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage in the country, at 7.2%. Only Idaho and Texas have higher rates. And escaping poverty level wages is not as easy as applying for a new job. The Alliance for a Just Society released a report December 4th that found,

“For every projected job opening above a low-wage threshold of $15 an hour, there were 7 job-seekers in 2012.”

Furthermore, while jobs lost during the Great Recession were not exclusive to any one sector, a 2012 report from the National Employment Law Project confirms most job losses were concentrated in mid-wage occupations. In contrast, the recovery has seen gains in the number of lower-wage occupations.

Jobs Lost in Recession_ NELP

Low-wage occupations that increased during and after the recession include “retail salespersons, food preparation workers, laborers and freight workers, (more…)

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Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a report on annual poverty data from the American Community Survey. Last month, the Census Bureau reported the poverty rate for 2012 was 15%, virtually unchanged since 2011. For Oklahoma, the rate was 17.2%, also the same as last year.

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When the current poverty rate is measured against the historically low rate of 11.1% in 1973, the news seems disheartening. Yet, as Sheldon H. Danziger points out in a recent New York Times opinion piece, comparing 2012 to 1973 without further context can give people the wrong idea about the true state of the war on poverty.

One thing to keep in mind is that poverty measures do not capture all the relief provided to low-income families under current safety net policies. Non-cash benefits, (more…)

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Work support programs are designed to sustain low-income earners and encourage work. In this they have been successful, as SNAP alone lifted an estimated 3.9 million Americans out of poverty in 2009.  And according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ blog “public programs lifted 40 million people out of poverty in 2011, including almost 9 million children.”

Most of us know families must fall below certain income limits in order to qualify for government benefits. In many cases, individual states administer federally funded safety net programs and often set certain eligibility requirements for benefits such as SNAP or child care subsidies. For some benefits, the state or federal government also sets asset limits, meaning in some states even a modest savings account can disqualify families from receiving assistance.

Cliff EffectsYet another harsh side effect of eligibility guidelines is called the “Cliff Effect.” It refers to situations where a small increase in income leads to an abrupt end to a critical benefit. Two work support benefits often associated with income limits are child care assistance, which makes daycare affordable for working parents, and food assistance, which often includes work requirements.

The dilemma posed by cliff effects is that it penalizes people who are slowly working their way out of poverty and into higher income brackets. As income increases, (more…)

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In May I wrote about upcoming cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and said it was anyone’s guess where a compromise would leave the program. Now August is here, Congress is in recess, and still nothing has been done to stave off cuts scheduled for November; cuts that will lead to a decrease in benefits for nearly 652,000 Oklahomans.

SNAP in OklahomaFurther cuts still seem inevitable. For the first time since 1973, the House of Representatives approved a version of the Farm Bill without including provisions for SNAP benefits at all. Since then, reports say the House has begun working on a plan to propose cutting $40 Billion from SNAP. This effectively doubles the cuts they proposed in their failed attempt to pass a Farm Bill in June.

Still, the Senate has yet to act on the House’s version of the Farm Bill, so the fight is not over. However, the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) is justifiably alarmed by recent developments, seeing them as an “assault on SNAP.” Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, issued a statement on the subject last Friday calling the new proposal “stunningly harsh.” And while the policy debate on further cuts goes on in Washington, the current Farm Bill is set to expire in September.

The future of SNAP is unknown, but the history of the program is not. And to fully appreciate why SNAP is a vital part of the government’s safety net, it is important to look at this issue from a historical and scientific perspective. Why do we have food programs, including SNAP, in the first place?  Why are these programs still needed today? (more…)

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In case you missed it last month, on July 8th Rally4Babies hosted a virtual rally on Google+. Rally4Babies is a partnership sponsored by Zero to Three (The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families). The event, hosted by Soledad O’Brien, featured guests Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education, and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Department Health and Human Services.

O’Brien and her guests talked about the success of Head Start, Early Head Start, Home Visiting Programs and other programs offering early childhood education.  Secretary Sebelius described how babies are learning every day, and emphasized that a safe, secure and stimulating environment both inside and outside the home can “make a world of difference” in language development and other fundamental skills.  Along those same lines, Secretary Duncan is concerned because low-income children who do not have the advantage of quality early learning experiences can start Kindergarten a year, to a year and a half, behind their peers.

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Backed up by research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, we know babies begin developing the skills necessary for lifelong learning shortly after birth. The Center’s InBrief report, Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning, tells us the optimal window for dramatic growth occurring between ages 3 to 5. (more…)

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The Annie E. Casey Foundation released their annual KIDS COUNT Data Book this week.  Oklahoma’s profile shows childhood poverty has worsened in recent years. This is worrying because of the potential negative impacts on education, behavior and health. The report details child well-being across the United States by measuring and ranking states in four specific areas: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. The numbers serve as important markers because in measuring the well-being of Oklahoma children, they provide feedback to agencies that implement programs designed to address health, education and poverty.

KC 2013 badge3KIDS COUNT estimates 216,000 Oklahoma children, or 23% of our state’s child population, were living in poverty as of 2011. Around 35,136 of Oklahoma kids in poverty are located right here in Tulsa County, according to a 2010 estimate by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, which directs Oklahoma KIDS COUNT.  Oklahoma’s 2013 rate is a slight improvement over last year’s data, but childhood poverty is now relatively the same as it was in 2005. And while Oklahoma’s overall Child Well-being rank rose to 36th overall, up from 40th last year, both the number of children living in poverty coupled with the lack of significant progress in decreasing this rate is troubling.

The Academic Pediatric Association (APA) task force on childhood poverty recently called it “the most important problem facing children in the United States today.” According to the APA, childhood poverty has been linked to (more…)

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