CFPA Submits Comments Opposing Federal Proposal to Shrink Poverty Threshold

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The OMB proposes to update the Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds using a slower-rising measure of inflation than the current Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). If enacted, the change would lower the poverty line with the effect worsening over time.

The Trump Administration's plan would lead to tens of thousands of low-income Californians losing eligibility for, or receiving fewer benefits from, Medi-Cal, CalFresh, school meals, WIC, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and other programs that help them meet basic needs.

Read CFPA's public comments PDF.

CFPA objects to this proposal for a number of important reasons. First, the current Official Poverty Measure (OPM), does not reflect the true level of need in many California communities – and neither do program eligibility criteria based on that measure. Any changes made to the OPM should comprehensively address its inaccuracy and not exacerbate the flaws.

Below is a comparison of the maximum allowable income (before deductions) for CalFresh, income limits for school meal programs, and the living wage deemed necessary to meet the basic needs of a family of four in California.

Though the living wage for basic needs varies by California county, in all cases that wage exceeds the highest allowable income for public nutrition programs such as CalFresh and free or reduced-price school meals. Families who fall into the gap between a living wage and program eligibility struggle to meet their most basic needs – and must do so without having access to the very nutrition assistance programs that are intended to prevent hunger and poor nutrition.

Second, the OMB proposes to use a slower-rising measure of inflation than the current method, which is likely to be a less accurate way to measure inflation for low-income households. Research shows that the cost of good and services that make up the bulk of spending by low-income households (e.g. housing) is already rising faster than the CPI-U (the measure of inflation currently used to calculate the poverty thresholds). Research also shows that low-income households experience inflation at a higher rate of growth than other households. Incorporating a slow-growing measure of inflation into the federal poverty threshold runs counter to this evidence.

Finally, OMB has not sought out or provided the necessary evidence to justify the proposed changes. CFPA and our partners strongly believe that the administration must conduct extensive research, carry out rigorous analysis, and meaningfully solicit stakeholder input before making any changes to the federal poverty threshold that would affect the calculation of the federal poverty guidelines.

OMB’s proposal to change the inflation measure used in the estimation of the federal poverty threshold is unfounded and misguided.

Questions? Contact: Tia Shimada at 510.433.1122 ext 109