Report Shows Anti-Poverty Programs and Policies Cut Colorado Child Poverty Rate Nearly in Half

A report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that the federal government’s official poverty measure, which was created in the 1960s, uses outdated information on how U.S. children and families are faring today. Research shows that families need an income of roughly twice the official poverty threshold, currently about $24,000 per year for a family of four, to cover the entire cost of basic expenses for housing, food, transportation, health care and child care.

The new Data Snapshot, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, points to a better index for measuring poverty—the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM takes into account a more accurate inventory of basic family expenses, the differences in regional cost of living and the effect of supports including federal and state programs and family-friendly tax policies.

Using the more precise Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that 25 percent of Colorado children—one in four kids—would be living in poverty without the assistance of state and federal programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), housing subsidies and tax policies such as the EITC and Child Tax Credit. However, when the effect of these supports are taken into account, Colorado’s child poverty rate is cut nearly in half, from 25 percent to 13 percent. In other words, these programs kept 147,000 Colorado children out of poverty between 2011 and 2013.

As a research-driven advocacy organization, we believe that the most accurate, reliable measurements of poverty are important to not only give us the clearest picture of how Colorado kids are doing, but also to help evaluate the programs and policies that best support children and their families. Click here to read the full report.

KF 2.27.15-Data Snapshot

 

Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure Finds Public Programs Kept Millions of U.S. Children Out of Poverty in 2013

Public benefits kept more than 8 million American children out of poverty in 2013, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The report uses an experimental poverty measure called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, or SPM, rather than the official poverty measure. The latter has been criticized for failing to consider the impact of certain expenses and benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, school lunches, and more, that affect families’ economic security. The official measure defined poverty in 2013 as an annual income at or below $23,550 for a family of four.

Although the poverty rate for all ages was higher in 2013 when using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, the poverty rate for children is lower when using the SPM, primarily because it considers the impact of public benefits. When public benefits and common family expenses are considered, data show 16 percent of U.S. kids lived in poverty in 2013, compared to 20 percent using the official measure, which does not account for non-cash benefits or expenses such as medical out-of-pocket costs or child care. According to the SPM, the school lunch program kept 1.4 million Americans out of poverty in 2013, while refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) kept nearly 9 million Americans out of poverty. SNAP (also known as food stamps) lifted almost 5 million Americans out of poverty. The new data show that public programs like these are critical to millions of families across the country as they work to get back on their feet after the economic downturn.

For more detailed information on the impact of public programs on American families and children, check out this helpful infographic from the Census Bureau. Click here for the full report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure.

U.S. House Finally Approves Farm Bill; End in Sight After Two-Year Struggle

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a five-year, $959 billion Farm Bill on a bi-partisan vote of 251-166, ending a two-year political impasse on the measure. The final compromise bill included an $8 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). However, because of the way the cut is structured, it will not significantly impact Colorado’s food assistance program. We were relieved that many of the draconian provisions limiting SNAP access that had been included in earlier versions of the House bill were not included in the final measure. The U.S. Senate is likely to take up the measure next week and is expected to pass it.

SNAP helps prevent children and families from going hungry during times of economic hardship. Even though the number of Colorado children living in poverty continues to grow, the number of kids living in food-insecure households has declined in recent years as participation in SNAP has increased. However, we know that hunger and obesity are issues that continue to challenge Colorado kids and families. Access to adequate supplies of healthy food is essential to healthy development and academic success. We’re pleased to continue supporting efforts in Colorado to ensure all kids have access to the healthy food they need to be strong and successful.

Fast Fact – Dec. 6, 2013

In 2012, approximately 36 percent of all Colorado children under 5 received vouchers from WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children). WIC helps low-income pregnant women, infants and children access nutritious foods and as well as nutrition education and counseling. To find data on the percent of children who received WIC vouchers in your county, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Newly Released Census Data Show Colorado’s High Rate of Child Poverty Persists, but Continued Progress on Getting Kids Insured

Colorado’s child poverty rate was higher in 2012 than during the worst years of the Great Recession, according to data from the American Community Survey released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The new data show that in 2012, 18 percent of all Colorado kids were living in poverty, up from 15 percent in 2008. Nearly 224,000 children across the state were living in poverty last year, defined as an annual income at or below $23,050 for a family of four. Since 2000, Colorado has seen the number of children living in poverty more than double, increasing at the third-fastest rate in the nation. Median household income in Colorado also continued to stagnate, with little change from 2011 to 2012. Since 2008, Colorado’s median household income has declined from just over $61,000 to $56,765.

These new data show that despite some indications that our economy is in recovery, economic security remains out of reach for many of Colorado’s low- and middle-income families. Meanwhile, Congress continues to debate cuts to programs that are critical to thousands of Colorado children, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). Other important programs like Head Start and Early Head Start are feeling the effects of funding cuts from the sequester that went into effect earlier this year.

Despite the increase in child poverty, Colorado continues to make steady progress on getting more children insured. The newly released data show that 8.8 percent of Colorado kids were uninsured in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2008. Nationally, 7 percent of all children lacked health insurance in 2012.

Farm Bill’s Reauthorization Saga Continues: SNAP Funding Caught in Partisan Gridlock

This week the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed (by a vote of 217 to 210) a version of the Farm Bill which would slash nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the next 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that cuts of that magnitude would mean that more than 2.5 million Americans—many of whom are children—would lose basic nutrition assistance needed to keep them healthy and economically afloat. By contrast, the U.S. Senate passed a version of the Farm Bill earlier this year that included $4 billion in cuts to SNAP. The stark difference in the two chambers’ approaches to this policy leaves little hope that comprehensive reauthorization is likely or even possible before the current continuing resolution expires next week.

Criticism of the gridlock that is preventing progress on this essential policy is coming from both parties. Two former Senate Majority Leaders, Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Tom Daschle, authored a commentary piece for the Los Angeles Times on Monday calling on Congress to find a bi-partisan solution to funding for SNAP. “In a country struggling to emerge from the worst economic recession since the Depression, this is no time to play politics with hunger. As friends and colleagues, we hope that the House will do the right thing and follow the Senate’s lead in passing a farm bill with adequate funding for food assistance. Our nation’s future depends on it.”

Food Insecurity Declines among Colorado Kids, but Remains above Pre-Recession Levels

New data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that the number of Colorado kids living in households that were food-insecure at some point during the year has begun to decline. A food-insecure household is one that experienced uncertainty around whether they could provide enough food for all family members.

The newly released data show that on average, between 2010 and 2012, approximately 19 percent of all Colorado children (241,000 kids) were living in households that experienced food insecurity, down from 21 percent between 2007 and 2009. Despite the decline, food insecurity among Colorado children remains above pre-recession levels. Since 2004-2006, the number of children living in food-insecure households has increased by 18 percent.

Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) continue to be critical supports for families who struggle to put food on the table in the wake of the recession. In 2011, SNAP served more than 492,000 Coloradans each month. Unfortunately the future of this vital safety net program remains unclear. With another deadline for expiration just two weeks away, Congressional leaders have failed to come to agreement on reauthorization of the federal Farm Bill. The Children’s Campaign continues to monitor the legislation and advocate for strong reauthorization.

New Resources Available to Help Stay Informed on Benefits System Changes

The Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) is the state technology infrastructure that determines eligibility for assistance programs including Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps). In 2012 the Colorado Legislature approved a plan to make significant investments in and improvements to the system, with the goal of more efficiently and reliably serving Coloradans eligible for food, medical and monetary assistance. The Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) has launched a public website, , with regularly updated information and resources on CBMS and the progress on the implementation of improvements. OIT has also released a fact sheet summarizing recent changes to PEAK, the Program Eligibility Assistance Kit, an online tool to allow clients and community partners easy ways to check eligibility, apply for assistance and update their case files. We know counties and community-based organizations play a critical role in helping families get connected to the resources they need to stay healthy and financially secure. These new tools are designed to support county and community partners in that important work.

U.S. House Defeats Farm Bill

In a surprise outcome, the Farm Bill was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. A bipartisan coalition of 234 “strange bedfellows” voted no on the measure, but their reasons for opposition were varied. Many shared the belief of the Children’s Campaign that the deep cuts and structural changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) were unacceptable. Others felt that entitlement reforms didn’t go far enough and opposed agricultural subsidies proposed in the bill. Mirroring the bipartisan opposition across Congress, five of Colorado’s seven representatives opposed the bill. Read more in The Denver Post.

While we are pleased to see SNAP spared from these dangerous cuts, Thursday’s vote creates a cloud of uncertainty for the future of nutrition and agriculture program policy and funding. Congress failed to approve a long-term reauthorization of the Farm Bill in 2012, and the U.S. has been operating under a temporary extension that expires in September. We are hopeful that Congress will come together this year to establish a clear direction for America’s agricultural and nutrition programs that will protect the health of vulnerable children.

SNAP at Risk in Upcoming Farm Bill Debate

The U.S. Senate approved on Monday a five-year farm bill with bipartisan support. While the Senate version includes $4 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly food stamps), the Children’s Campaign is more concerned about the version of the bill that the House of Representatives will begin debating next week. The House version seeks more than $20 billion in reductions to SNAP and contemplates making major structural changes that would undermine the effectiveness of the program. The Children’s Campaign joined with a number of other Colorado advocacy groups to send a letter to Colorado’s Representatives this week, urging them to reject these proposals. Click here to learn why SNAP is an essential lifeline to Colorado children and families in need and is a major economic driver for communities across our state. Stay tuned for updates on the House debate and opportunities for you to make your voice heard in favor of Colorado’s kids.