Caring Education

Florida children benefit from anti-poverty programs

February 25, 2015

homeless child

By Stephanie Carson, Florida News Connection

Poverty intervention programs are lifting half a million children out of poverty in Florida. That’s the findings of a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that uses a relatively new method of quantifying poverty to illustrate the difference federal assistance makes in the lives of children.

“Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States,” shows the rate of child poverty in Florida is 21 percent, but would jump to 35 percent without safety net resources, explains Susan Weitzel director with Florida Kids Count.

“These supports provide the base housing and food structures to provide an opportunity for them to utilize education and employment,” says Weitzel. “Our families, our children need these base supports.”

Today’s report uses the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which Weitzel says provides a more complete picture of how families fare when compared to the current method of measuring the impact of programs.

The current method used to measure poverty was developed in the 1960s and according to the U.S. Census Bureau sets a standard of $24,000 a year for a family of four, regardless of where that family lives or accounting for inflation.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, explains better measurement tools, such as the SPM, are important to make improvements in public programs.

“Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure we can really see the successes and the limitations of the safety net resources we’ve put into place,” Speer says. “We can also see these resources don’t go far enough. We still see that there are 13 million children below the poverty line.”

The SPM takes into account living costs such as medicine, housing, food and utilities and how those costs affect disposable income. It also accounts for how government programs such as SNAP help offset those costs. Weitzel says considering what the benefits programs provide is valuable when planning how to move forward.

“Without quantifying these successful outcomes, we would never really quite know where to put our dollars and what would lead to the most success for our children and families,” she says.

The Annie E. Casey report recommends state and federal governments expand access to early childhood education, change tax credit policies to keep more money in the hands of struggling families and streamline food and housing subsidies.

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