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Comment Today to Stop the Trump Administration’s Latest Plan to Deny Assistance

Submit Comment by 11:59 EST June  21, 2019

President Trump wants to change how poverty is measured to make fewer people eligible for food assistance, health, and other forms of basic assistance.

Following multiple attempts to strip healthcare, food assistance, housing, and other critical programs from low- to middle-income Americans, the Administration is resorting to an obscure regulatory notice that would change the inflation rate used to update the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This seemingly semantic change would cause the poverty line to grow more slowly, resulting in fewer people being counted as poor and thus, fewer people being eligible for benefits.

In other words, Trump’s proposal would be a gross misrepresentation of our collective well-being achieved by cooking the numbers.

Over time, millions – including many who work hard but are paid low wages — would lose health coverage or face reductions in many other benefits. Programs that would be affected by shrinking the poverty measure include: Medicaid, Medicare, subsidized prescription drug coverage, Children’s Health Insurance Coverage (CHIP), Community Health Centers, family planning services, Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Head Start, Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), free and reduced price breakfast and lunch, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Senior Community Service Employment Program, WIOA Youth Training, Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs, and more.

The official poverty line is already an inadequate measure that reflects neither the income required for basic standards of living, nor the savings needed to weather emergencies.

Created more than a half-century ago, when food costs were the only data available, officials simply multiplied the cost of a family’s food budget by three to determine a household’s annual needs. The measure hasn’t evolved to account for the fact that families now spend approximately 13 percent of their budget on food, nor does it incorporate the costs faced by low-income families today, like child care costs or the increase in housing relative to other costs. Moreover, the measure is not tailored to account for geographic differences; in a high-cost city such as New York, three times the federal poverty level (300% FPL or $36,420 annually) is a more realistic and quantifiably accurate threshold for measuring basic living standards. By applying this more sensible yardstick, our analysis reveals that half of New York City residents cannot afford a basic standard of living.


If you or your organization work with any of these programs, or work with people who utilize them, you can make important comments about how these programs benefit people and the danger of gradually reducing the number of people who would qualify for them.

The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) makes it easy. Click here for additional information, here to submit a comment, and please reach out to Derek Thomas, Senior Fiscal Policy Analyst at FPWA (dthomas@fpwa.org) for questions on submitting a comment.