Poverty and Public Assistance

In his February 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called for a $9 federal minimum wage. We all know this increase is long overdue.

But here’s something you may not know: an incredibly disproportionate number – 64% of minimum wage earners – are women.

Our lagging minimum wage makes it tougher for women-led families to get by. When the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed, the inflation-adjusted minimum wage was $9.38. These hard-working women deserve a living wage today.

Too often they are left to choose between feeding their kids, putting gas in the car or paying the bills. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that we have to break immediately.

Last year, I cosponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage. We must renew this push now. Women and their families need this.

Click here to add your voice and tell Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9.

Raising the minimum wage would benefit 13 million women. Women are now the breadwinner or co-breadwinner in almost two-thirds of American families. This is an opportunity to help working women catch up. It’s an opportunity for families to get ahead. It’s an opportunity for all of us to reach higher.

And it’s not just women who are negatively affected: Our low minimum wage keeps money out of the hands of small businesses. Studies show that increasing the minimum wage actually helps create jobs.

With the president behind us, we’ve got a chance at this – but it still won’t be easy. We have to be heard. We have to fight. This is the right thing to do for our economy and, more importantly, for our families.

It’s time to tell Congress: Raise the minimum wage now.


10 Things You Need to Know About TANF


“The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program was created by what is commonly referred to as “welfare reform” in 1996. It replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) as the program through which some low-income families are able to receive cash assistance.

With TANF authorization expiring at the end of March and needing to be renewed (and hopefully improved) — and over 46 million people still living below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four — here are ten things you should know about the program:

1) There is no cash entitlement program for people living in poverty in the U.S. States (including Washington, D.C.), the tribes and the territories have wide discretion, so there are more than fifty different TANF systems in the country.

2) Most people in poverty do not receive cash assistance. In 1996, for every 100 families with children in poverty, there were 68 families who accessed cash assistance. In 2011, for every 100 families with children in poverty, 27 accessed cash assistance.

3) Over the last 16 years, the number of people receiving TANF cash assistance has declined by 60 percent, even as poverty and deep poverty — people living below half the poverty line — have increased.

4) TANF is reaching fewer children. In 1995, AFDC kept over 2.2 million poor children — over 62 percent of all poor children — out of deep poverty. In 2005, TANF lifted just 21 percent of children who would otherwise be in deep poverty, or just 650,000 kids.

5) The cash benefit is less than 50 percent of the poverty line in every state— so less than $9,000 for a family of three — and less than 30 percent of the poverty line in most states, or less than $5,500 annually for a family of three.

6) The TANF block grant has been frozen since 1996 so its value in real terms has declined by over 30 percent. Congress also recently failed to fund the Supplemental Grants for 17 poorer states which had received them since 1996, reducing the overall funding of these high poverty states by as much as 10 percent.

7) The “work participation rate” is a failed measure that stifles effective career pathways. The federal government rewards or penalizes states based on whether TANF recipients are doing “countable activities,” with no assessment as to whether those activities lead to employment entry, job retention, advancement or poverty reduction. So sweeping a county garage might be an approved activity, while post-secondary education leading to a wage that supports a family may not be permitted at all, or only for a limited number of recipients.

8) The work participation rate discourages states from serving the most “needy” families that have multiple barriers to employment — such as physical or mental health limitations, a child with a health problem or an experience with domestic violence — even though these are the people with the most to gain from employment assistance. The priority is serving people who are able to meet the work requirements with little or no assistance.

9) The TANF Emergency Fund placed more than 260,000 low-income adults and youth in paid jobs at the height of the recession. Thirty-seven states participated in this public-private partnership, and it earned bipartisan support from governors. But Congress allowed it to expire in September 2010.

10) A weak TANF has contributed to a rise in deep poverty. The number of people living in deep poverty has risen from 12.6 million in 2000 to 20.4 million people today. This includes over 15 million women and children — 9.8 percent of all children.”

Read the full article here.


Articles about the effect of income and wealth disparity and its negative impact on human psychology:

Berkeley Study on Class Income and Empathy

(Paper by Michael W. Kraus, at the University of California, San Francisco; Stéphane Côté, at the University of Toronto; and Dacher Keltner, the University of California, Berkeley)

Huffington Post Article on Income and Empathy

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