Federal safety-net programs continue to keep millions out of poverty

September 16, 2015
Federal safety-net programs like the free- and reduced-price lunch program helps keep families out of poverty. Photo by Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Today, despite relatively little change in U.S. poverty numbers, Bread for the World points to new U.S. Census Bureau data showing that federal safety-net programs continue to prevent millions of people from falling into poverty. The bureau announced that 14.8 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2014, essentially unchanged from 2013.

The official poverty rate does not account for most federal anti-poverty programs. Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which does account for safety-net programs and was also released today, the school lunch program reduced poverty by 0.4 percentage points. On September 30, the law governing child nutrition programs including school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition program expires unless Congress renews it.

“Congress needs to pass a child nutrition bill that protects child nutrition programs and connects more children with healthy meals – while not cutting other safety net programs,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations.

According to the new data, the poverty rate would have been 3.1 percentage points higher without the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC). These two credits have important improvements set to expire in 2017 without congressional action.

“Congress is in the midst of debating what temporary business tax benefits to make permanent, and it is essential lawmakers simultaneously make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent,” emphasized Mitchell. “Allowing these improvements to expire would push 16.4 million people, including 7.7 million children, into or deeper into poverty. The needs of working families struggling to make ends meet should be just as high a priority as tax benefits for businesses.”

Despite the new data showing federal safety-net programs keeping millions people out of poverty, many are at risk of cuts from sequestration.  

“As the budget battles heat up, Congress must negotiate a deal that addresses sequestration. If we are serious about ending hunger, we cannot make progress by putting key safety-net programs on the chopping block,” said Mitchell. “These policies matter to millions of Americans. Lawmakers must stop the brinkmanship, end sequestration, and make ending hunger a real priority for our country.”

Photo: Federal safety-net programs like the free- and reduced-price lunch program helps keep families out of poverty. Photo by Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World

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