Op/Ed

Opinion: See something, say something

She is a single mother of two children aged 8 and 10 years. The family became homeless initially due to domestic violence. She coped by staying at a motel while occasionally couch surfing at a family member’s home for nearly four months. The family found an apartment and applied for security deposit assistance through the Housing Opportunity grant.
The family’s gross monthly income is $2,407. The Area Median Income eligibility cut off for a three person household for the assistance is $2,067 gross monthly income. Her application was denied by the Housing Review Team due to being over income. “Poverty cannot be redefined out of existence, or eliminated with use of a new measuring stick,” says David Bradley, CEO of the National Community Action Foundation. And yet a solicitation published in the May 7 Federal Registry is suggesting that we take that exact action.
This new recommendation put forward in the Federal Registry from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is entitled “Consumer Inflation Measures Produced by Federal Statistical Agencies” and would have the effect of reducing the number of people counted as being poor and suggests a reduction in poverty that has no basis in reality.
CVOEO was working with a 75-year-old on a security deposit application that was denied by the Housing Review Team as his income exceeded the Area Median Income eligibility of $1,608 monthly gross income. This man received Social Security Retirement Income, a very small pension and Unemployment income totaling $1,877 per month for the 30 days prior to the intake application. This gentleman had been self-paying at a motel for approximately one month, was accepted for subsidized housing with Winooski Housing Authority, but the security deposit application was denied due to his income.
The suggested change recommended in the Federal Registry would have an immediate, demoralizing and devastating impact on the ability of people with low incomes to receive services that they desperately need. While the current Federal Poverty Level system could certainly be improved, the changes suggested in the Federal Registry of May 7 “will only exacerbate the existing inadequacy of the official poverty measures,” says Bradley.
“Community Action understands the Official Poverty Measure is an artificially low threshold to begin with,” states Denise Harlow, National Community Action Partnership CEO. A family of four making $26,000 a year is not considered poor under current definition, regardless of where they live in the U.S.,” as were the two individuals cited in this article.
Could you imagine having a budget of $650 a month for rent for a family of four and not calling that poverty? Could you imagine finding a home for a family of four to rent for $650 without any subsidies in Vermont? Yet that is what we have now without a reclassification of the definition of poverty.
We are told that if we suspect danger and “see something, say something!” June 21 is the due date for comments regarding the redefinition of poverty at regulations.gov/comment?D=OMB-2019-0002-0001. Do say something! I did.
Jan F. Demers is the Executive Director of CVOEO.

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