• Advertisement

Granite State Rumblings: The End Of An Era, Every Child Matters NH Is Closing After 10 Years

It is with a heavy heart that this will be the last official Granite State Rumblings as the NH Chapter of Every Child Matters is closing their doors.  

Over the last few years MaryLou has informed us in great detail about upcoming legislation in Concord and Washington with the goal of ending poverty, building a strong educational system, and fighting for low income families every day.  

Let me be the first to say Thank You for all of the hard work you have put in at Every Child Matters over the years.  I would also like to thank Marylou on behalf of the NH Labor News for her tireless work keeping us well informed and allowing us to share her weekly updates.  

While this may be the last official Granite State Rumblings, hopefully it will not be the last word from MaryLou.  

Matt, 
Editor of the NH Labor News


GRANITE STATE RUMBLINGS

Next week marks the end of a decade of advocacy, organizing, educating, researching, bird dogging, reporting, and having an important impact on the future of Granite State children and the programs and policies that affect them. Every Child Matters in New Hampshire is closing its doors.

Soon the lights will be turned off, the doors locked and the telephone disconnected. But the work we did over the course of the last 10 years lives on. It lives on in the legislation we helped move forward that impacts New Hampshire’s children and families, and the legislation that our collective voices helped stop that would have been detrimental to children’s well-being. It lives on in the knowledge that we helped to educate others about the needs of children and knowing that we gave all of our best efforts to ensuring that every child has equal opportunities to grow up healthy, well-educated and safe in their homes and communities.

For the past ten years, the mission of Every Child Matters in New Hampshire was so resonant because its values were already deeply embedded within the State. And while we are saddened that our doors are closing, nothing about the closure of the organization changes that. The mission lives on in all of you and your commitment to do right by New Hampshire’s children – ALL of them. Please continue to carry it on through your own work and practice.

On a personal note, I want to thank all of you for allowing me to share my passion with you. I have enjoyed meeting you, talking with you, working with you, and learning from you. I intend to continue to be a big voice for kids in New Hampshire and in Washington. My role may change, but my heart is always in this.

I also plan to continue to write about the programs, policies, and legislation that impacts children and their families. If you want to continue to be in touch and informed by having my thoughts and musings appear in your inbox, please send me an e-mail at kids1stconsulting(at)gmail.com.

Thank you for being a part of my life these past ten years!
MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Director
Every Child Matters

Granite State Rumbling: Every Child Matters NH’s Goals For 2017

Now that the elections and Thanksgiving are in our rearview mirror, our attention turns to the holidays of December and the hope of what a new year will bring.

2016 has been a long year for the advocates, organizations, and agencies across the state and across the country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that basic needs are met for our most vulnerable populations. It has been an even longer and much harder year for the children and families who continue to feel the effects of a shredded safety net and an opiate crisis that shows no mercy on those who are afflicted with the disease and the innocent victims caught in the current.

We have watched more of our children slip into poverty, go to bed hungry, and wonder where that bed is going to be tomorrow night. And as December’s cold winds blow through the state we now fear for those who have no place warm to escape them.

The Thanksgiving break afforded me the time to spend time with loved ones, eat some great desserts, watch some football, and reflect on the feelings of frustration and anger I have felt lately. I have regrouped and am now ready to get back to work. That work means playing offense instead of playing defense (stealing some football terminology).

We have gotten pretty good at playing defense when it comes to addressing the difficult challenges that face our state. The primary obstacle we face is not related to a lack of goodwill, but rather to the fundamental way we understand the nature of the problems we face. More times than not, we merely respond to symptoms of a given problem [defense] and don’t pay adequate attention to the problem that is producing the symptoms [offense]. All of which puts the cart before the horse and keeps us from truly moving forward.

Take, for instance, the growing issue of child poverty. When we think about helping those in need (“giving back to those less fortunate,” as the popular adage goes), many of us usually focus on acts of charitable giving. After all it is the season of giving. In the malls we find Christmas trees with cards on them asking for a gift for a child in need. At the grocery store are pre-packaged groceries that we can purchase for a family in need. Charity in its many forms tries to help people who are in need, which is certainly important and worthy of our best efforts.

But even more important is figuring out why people are in need in the first place, and then working toward alleviating the root causes of such need (it’s one thing to give food to a person who is hungry, but it’s another thing entirely to eliminate the reasons they are hungry in the first place). While we can of course celebrate acts of charity that take place in our community, the ultimate goal isn’t simply about responding to symptoms, but abolishing the problems that produce the symptoms.

So, don’t you think that at a time when we see the income gap widening, ninety-five percent of the recovery gains since 2009 going to the top 1%, over ¼ of all jobs in the U.S. paying below poverty wages, and child well-being indicators falling in our state, now is the right time for all of us to rally around a set of common goals that will strengthen families and put them on a course leading to economic security?

Take a look at Every Child Matters’ 5 priority areas in the section below. Is there an area that catches your attention? Give us a call or send us an e-mail and we’ll give you some ideas about how you can help advocate. Your voice is especially important now.  

Many New Hampshire kids are doing fine – but many are not.

1. Equal Opportunity:  Children remain more likely to be poor than any other age group, with more than one in ten in poverty in New Hampshire in 2015 (10.7 percent), and the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow.

2. Family and Work:  The Census Bureau data shows that in 58 percent of poor New Hampshire families, at least one person worked, although not always full time or year-round. Even when work and other income helps people to live up to twice the poverty line (up to $37,742 for a family of three), most people recognize that making ends meet is not that easy for those this near poverty. One in five Granite Staters are trying to get by with incomes this low. 

The average cost in New Hampshire for an infant in a child care center is more than $11,800 a year for an infant and for a 4-year-old, it’s more than $21,250.

3. Access to Education:  New Hampshire currently does not have a state-funded preschool program. Only 4 percent of 3-year-olds and 6 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a public preschool program. A year of tuition for an instate student at the University of New Hampshire costs $16,017 plus room, board, books and incidentals $27,000+. The maximum Pell grant award covers only $5,775.

4. Children’s Healthcare:  12,000 New Hampshire children were without health insurance in 2014 and 94,153 children in New Hampshire were enrolled in Medicaid in 2014, increasing 15.1% from 2013. 

5. Children’s Safety: In 2014, New Hampshire had 15,184 total referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, 9,289 reports were referred for investigation.

In 2014, there were 646 victims of abuse or neglect in New Hampshire, a rate of 2.4 per 1,000 children, decreasing 21.4% from 2013. Of these children, 79.1% were neglected, 8.7% were physically abused, and 15.5% were sexually abused.

Equal Opportunity. Individual outcomes will always vary. But when every child gets a fair shot at success, America’s families, communities and the economy as a whole will benefit. Lifting children from poverty and removing discrimination or other barriers to development and achievement are a key government function. As noted by the eminent researcher and author Robert Putnam, denial of equal opportunity is a dagger to the heart of the American Dream.

Family and Work. Stagnant incomes and workplace practices that pit being a parent against being a provider strain families and harm kids. Working and having a family shouldn’t be so hard. Paid sick and family medical leave, access to affordable childcare and better incomes can help provide the economic security and flexibility that parents need to build their careers and support their families

Access to Education.  Research demonstrates that 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs between the ages of zero and five. Yet little is invested at the federal level in early childhood education. All kids should have access to high-quality preschool regardless of parental income or where they live. Later in life, a teenager willing to work hard in college to get skills needed for success should not be blocked due to race and should not be burdened with a level of debt more crushing than that endured by any previous generation.

Children’s Healthcare.  More children have access to health care than ever due to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) and children’s protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While not perfect, these laws prohibit insurance company discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, require insurance companies to cover child preventive care, and help ensure families won’t go broke when their child gets sick. Proposed policy changes must detail how children’s protections will be maintained or enhanced.

Children’s Safety. Every child needs a safe environment in their home, school and neighborhood. Preventing child abuse and neglect, as well as minimizing gun violence, a leading killer of children and teens, are top priorities for voters.

Granite State Rumblings: The High Cost of Being Poor in New Hampshire

Anti-Poverty Programs Help Alleviate Costs, But More Must Be Done to Reduce Burdens

It is welcome news that the poverty rate in New Hampshire declined from 9.2 percent in 2014 to 8.2 percent in 2015 and declined nationally from 15.5 percent in 2014 to 14.7 percent in 2015.1 Sustained economic gains, strengthened by federal and state policies that increase income or reduce expenses, have finally begun to reach our low-income neighbors. 

The decline in poverty is good news, and with job growth continuing, we ought to be able to take steps to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction. But the precarious situation for the poor and near poor stands in the way of substantial progress. The fact is, it is expensive to be poor in the United States. New data released in September by the Census Bureau show that more than 106,000 adults and children remain in poverty in New Hampshire – and they need to pay every dime they have for necessities like rent, child care and groceries. They pay a premium for rent and food because of bad credit and inability to get to cheaper markets. Getting less value for their limited dollars, poor families are exposed to threats to health, child development, and employment. When expenses outstrip income, late fees and fines make things worse. For too many low-income Americans, predatory loans are a desperate attempt to stave off eviction or loss of a vehicle, leading instead to a trap of debt and poverty. While New Hampshire has restrictions against predatory payday lending, we must ensure this protection is not weakened, putting more Granite Staters at risk. 

The new Census Bureau data also show that effective anti-poverty programs, like housing assistance, child care subsidies, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) lift millions out of poverty and reduce the cost of poverty for millions more. But more needs to be done to reduce the burden of poverty even further, and for more Granite Staters living in and near poverty every day.

Progress to Build on

There were 2 million fewer poor people across the U.S. in 2015 than in 2014 and nearly 12,000 fewer poor Granite Staters. From 2011 to 2015, unemployment declined nationally from 10.3 percent to 6.3 percent. The proportion of Americans without health insurance plunged from 15.1 percent to 9.4 percent over the same five years. 

While communities of color in general saw substantial improvement, they remain disproportionately affected by poverty – and its associated costs. While 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. were poor in 2015, the poverty rate was 25.4 percent for African Americans and 22.6 percent for Latinos.2  

People aged 65 or older saw their poverty rate drop from 9.5 percent to 9.0 percent from 2014 to 2015 nationally, and in New Hampshire 6.1 percent of seniors were poor, statistically unchanged from the previous year. However, the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure counts income and expenditures more fully, and the differing budgets of seniors (such as more medical expenses) leads to a nationwide poverty rate of 13.7 percent for this group using this alternative measure.

3ecmnhreportChildren remain more likely to be poor in America than any other age group, with more than one in ten in poverty in New Hampshire in 2015 (10.7 percent), down from 13.0 percent in 2014. As with adults, children of color experience poverty at much higher rates that their white peers. In fact, African American and Latino children are roughly 2.5 times more likely to be poor than white children. In 2015, 12.5 percent of non-Hispanic white children in the U.S. lived in poverty, while 36.5 percent of African American and 30.5 percent of Latino children were poor.3 While their parents struggle to pay for necessities, children in poverty may pay in other ways, from damage to brain development to poorer physical and mental health, education and employment outcomes. 

Those with jobs are not immune – the Census Bureau data also show that in 58 percent of poor New Hampshire families, at least one person worked, although not always full time or year round. Even when work and other income helps people to live up to twice the poverty line (up to $37,742 for a family of three), most people recognize that making ends meet is not that easy for those this near poverty. Here, one in five Granite Staters are trying to get by with incomes this low. High costs affect them too, and may lead to the downward spiral to debt and poverty that the right policy choices can prevent. 

The High Cost of Being Poor

The poor pay more in many different areas of daily living. The Census data show that 61 percent of New Hampshire households with incomes less than $20,000 a year spend more than half of their income on rent alone.4  On average, low-income households face slightly higher food prices than other households face for the same basket of food,5 forcing them to choose lower quality items to reduce the cost. They get less for what they have to spend, and still end up spending a larger portion of their income on food than higher-income families.

The high cost of being poor is a major burden for all living in poverty, but for those in deep poverty – living below half of the federal poverty line – the burden is that much heavier to bear. For a family of four in 2015, the official poverty line was $24,257. According to the Census Bureau, 6.8 percent of Americans – 20.4 million people – live in deep poverty. Nearly 1 in 11 children is this deeply poor. That’s down from the previous year, but a higher proportion than in 2007, before the Great Recession. Locally, nearly 47,000 Granite Staters live in deep poverty.6 These families are especially prone to late fees for unpaid rent and eventual evictions, leading to frequent moves. Once they do find new housing, they often start out in the hole with a new landlord because they can’t afford the first and last month’s rent along with a security deposit.7  

2ecmnhreportTenants with evictions on their records can also be banned from affordable housing programs and often lose their only possessions as a part of the eviction.8 Young children living in poor housing conditions and/or subject to frequent moves or homelessness are more likely to suffer health problems. For example, a Boston area study found that infants and toddlers in low-income families that had moved two or more times in the past year were 59 percent more likely to be hospitalized than similar children in more secure housing.9 Rental vouchers limiting the amount low-income families pay for rent make a tremendous difference in child health, educational outcomes, and future earnings, but since 2004, the number of families with children receiving rental vouchers dropped by 250,000 nationwide (a 13 percent decline).10 Families do not have to be deeply poor to risk eviction, although they are likely to be among the quarter of low-income tenants across the U.S. who are paying at least 70 percent of their income on rent, and so are especially at risk of being unable to pay each month. However, even among New Hampshire households with incomes up to $35,000, 45 percent are paying half or more of their income on rent. 

Low-wage workers are more likely to lack paid sick days and paid leave, and they are less likely to have predictable work schedules, leaving them with even less money to cover expenses. Some gains for low-wage workers have been made in cities and states that have raised the minimum wage and adopted paid sick leave and other family-friendly policies, but not all states have taken these steps, and national standards leave too many low-wage workers out in the cold. Their struggle to pay rent each month can also take its toll on employment. The Milwaukee Area Renters Study found that workers leaving housing involuntarily were 20 percent more likely to lose their jobs afterwards than comparable workers who did not have to leave their dwellings.11  

Quality, affordable child care is critical for both the economic security of low-income parents, as it allows them to work, and for the development of children. Yet the cost puts quality child care out of reach for many families. The average cost in New Hampshire for an infant in a child care center is more than $11,800 a year; for an infant and a 4-year-old, it’s more than $21,250.12 A family at the poverty line with an infant and toddler in child care would therefore have to spend 88 percent of its income on child care, if paying the state average cost. Without a subsidy, low-income families have no choice but to make cheaper and often less reliable arrangements. 

Medical costs can have devastating effects on already-strapped family budgets. The Census data show that 11.2 million more people across the U.S. would be in poverty if out-of-pocket medical costs were taken into account, showing the importance of quality, affordable health insurance. Medical costs are even more of a burden for the poor in states that have not taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act option to use federal Medicaid dollars to expand health coverage to low-income adults. Low-income adults in the 19 states that have not made this move are uninsured at nearly twice the rates of those in states that have taken this step to expand coverage.13 They are too poor to qualify for health insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act, but are denied Medicaid, leaving them at even greater risk for overwhelming medical costs and, too often, forcing them to forgo necessary medical treatments. In New Hampshire, the percentage of uninsured people has remained unchanged from 2011 to 2015 at 6.2 percent.

With few other options, many low-income Americans in a majority of states feel they must turn to payday loans and similar practices to cover these higher expenses. Unfortunately, this leads to higher costs still. These predatory lenders target low-income Americans and communities of color – nearly half of payday borrowers have a family income of under $30,000. Nearly one in five borrowers relied on Social Security or some other form of government assistance.14 Payday lenders have been shown to be 2.4 times more concentrated in African American and Latino communities.15 Payday loan companies charge exorbitant interest rates – between 300 and 400 percent, on average, and fees that quickly rack up when borrowers are forced to take out loan after loan just to repay the previous loan. This traps the borrower in a cycle of debt. In fact, the average payday loan customer who borrows $400 for a loan to help them get by until their next paycheck winds up paying back $950 over 11 loan cycles in a year.16 In one-third of these cases, the borrower is forced to overdraw his or her checking account to pay off the loan, thereby incurring additional fees.17 Because of these abusive practices, New Hampshire has restrictions against payday lending. 

Vehicle title borrowers are similar to payday borrowers, but the consequences of failing to pay back a loan can be even more severe. One in five car title loan borrowers who agrees to repay the loan in a lump sum, plus interest and fees, loses his or her car,18 creating an even larger burden when he or she can’t get to work, to school or to the child care center. Every form of debt gets worse when it’s passed along to collection agencies. In December 2015, 18 percent of consumers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in New Hampshire had debt in collections.19 

While the cost of poverty is extremely high for those in poverty, it is also high for our society as a whole. In fact, child poverty alone costs the U.S. economy an estimated $672 billion each year, or 3.8 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP).20 Child poverty results in a less-educated workforce, which reduces productivity and economic output years later. It raises the incidence – and cost – of crime, while also increasing physical and mental health costs. 

Effective Anti-Poverty Programs Reduce the Cost of Being Poor

The Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts income sources such as federal tax credits and food and housing assistance, shows that federal programs increase incomes for millions of Americans, lifting them out of poverty and reducing the burdens of poverty for millions more. More than 9 million people were lifted out of poverty by low-income refundable tax credits in 2015 nationally; 2.5 million fewer were poor because of housing subsidies.21 Other analyses show that 16,000 Granite Staters were lifted out of poverty by low-income tax credits each year on average from 2011 to 2013 and 14,000 fewer were poor, each year on average from 2009 to 2011, because of housing subsidies.22 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program lifted 16,000 Granite Staters out of poverty each year on average from 2009 to 2011, and lifted 4.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2015. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program served more than 8.6 million women, infants and children across the U.S. in 201323 and lifted 371,000 of them out of poverty last year. More than 21 million children nationally received free and reduced-priced lunch during the 2014-2015 school year through the National School Lunch Program,24 lifting 1.3 million people out of poverty.

Child care subsidies reduce the cost of care, allowing parents to go to work or school and providing children with quality educational experiences in the critical early years. Single mothers were more likely to be employed, more likely to be employed full time, and more likely to have stable employment when receiving child care subsidies.25 Nationally, families headed by single mothers with at least one full-time, year-round worker had a poverty rate of 11.5 percent, while similar families where workers only had part-time or part-year employment were five times as likely to be poor (55.3 percent rate).26

States that raised their minimum wage saw faster wage growth for low-wage workers in 2015 than states without an increase.27 More money in the pockets of low-income workers resulting from a higher minimum wage and more paid, predictable hours is better for workers, their families, and our economy.

But many of these effective programs do not reach enough of the people they are designed to help, and others, like SNAP, could do more good if their benefits were higher. Across the country, only one in four qualifying renters receives rental assistance because Congress has not provided enough funding.28 Nationally, only one in six low-income children who ate a school lunch during the regular 2014-2015 school year were reached by federal summer nutrition programs.29 More than 13 percent of New Hampshire households without children experienced food hardship in 2014-2015. Households with children in New Hampshire fared worse: 16.3 percent suffered food hardship over the same period.  

More than six out of seven children eligible to receive federal child care assistance nationally are not getting any help,31 and 2,300 New Hampshire children in need have lost access to child care since 2006,32 leaving families to struggle to pay for care or forego jobs to stay home and provide care. In addition, while the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families) included many improvements that were long overdue, the bill did not include a guarantee of federal funding to implement the changes. This lack of funding threatens care for even more children.

1ecmnhreportThe Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an extremely effective anti-poverty and pro-work tax credit, provides far less help to low-income workers who aren’t raising children. This group has an unenviable distinction as the only group of Americans who are taxed into poverty. Expanding the EITC to these workers would benefit up to 74,000 Granite Staters.33 Similarly, families with children earning under $3,000 a year are excluded from claiming the Child Tax Credit (CTC), denying help to children because their parents, despite working, are too poor. Expanding the CTC to these poorest children and families would benefit millions across the U.S. every year. 

Because predatory lending practices are so hurtful to low-income people, 14 states, including New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia have restrictions against payday lending, and the consumer watchdog agency the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a proposed rule in June to rein in predatory payday, car title, and certain high-cost installment loans. The proposed rule would require lenders to determine whether borrowers can afford to pay back their loans, known as the ability-to-repay requirement. While the CFPB proposed rule is a necessary first step, it contains loopholes pushed for by payday lenders that could hurt consumers in all states. For example, the proposal exempts six high-cost payday loans from the ability-to-repay requirement and doesn’t go far enough to ensure that, after repaying the loan, the borrower will have enough money left over to cover other basic living expenses without reborrowing.34 This leaves consumers in states that have restrictions against payday lending vulnerable, as a weak CFPB rule will give the payday lending industry a leg up in trying to get New Hampshire and other states to weaken or even undo their existing laws. Protections that have helped low-income people out of the debt trap could be eroded. 

We Can Further Reduce the Cost of Poverty

We can – and should – do more to further reduce the high cost of poverty on millions of Americans and close the ever-widening opportunity gap our children face. To achieve this goal, Every Child Matters in New Hampshire and the Coalition on Human Needs recommend the following:

  • Increase federal funding for housing subsidies and child care subsidies. As Congress continues its Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process, it should increase funding to provide millions more low-income Americans in need with access to safe, stable housing and quality, affordable child care. One analysis estimates that an additional $1.2 billion investment is needed in FY17 funding to allow for full implementation of improvements contained in the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant without the loss of additional spots for children.35 Additional funding over FY16 levels is also needed to ensure existing housing vouchers keep pace with inflation and to expand the supply of vouchers for those left out in the cold. Beyond these immediate needs, proposals such as President Obama’s call for $82 billion over 10 years to fund child care assistance for children younger than four and $11 billion to end family homelessness by 2020 (providing housing for 550,000 families) should be implemented.
  • 6ecmnhreportExpand the Earned Income Tax Credit to workers not raising children and expand the Child Tax Credit to families making less than $3,000 a year. President Obama, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are among the bipartisan supporters of expanding the EITC, so helping workers without dependent children should be a top priority for Congress. Congress should also act to ensure all low-income children benefit from the CTC.
  • Increase SNAP benefits and pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods. As part of the reauthorization, Congress should streamline and expand the summer food program, expand WIC eligibility for children not in full day kindergarten from age five to age six, reject attempts to deny free and reduced-priced meals to students in high-poverty schools, and reject attempts to block grant school meal programs. Congress should also protect SNAP from cuts, increase SNAP benefits to align with the cost of the Low-Cost Food Plan rather than the inadequate Thrifty Food Plan currently used, and end the harsh time limits on SNAP benefits for certain jobless adults willing to work. 
  • States that haven’t yet expanded health coverage to low-income Americans by drawing down federal Medicaid dollars should do so. Governors of states that have continued to deny health coverage to low-income residents should end this costly failure to take advantage of federal dollars on the table to provide necessary health care to those who can least afford it. 
  • A strong rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, without loopholes, is needed to stop predatory lending, help low-income Americans break out of the dangerous debt trap, and ensure that consumers in states like New Hampshire where the practice is already restricted remain protected from these harmful practices. Low-income advocates should encourage the CFPB to strengthen the rule to protect all low-income consumers. The CFPB is accepting public comments on its proposed rule until October 7.
  • Raise the minimum wage and help workers get more paid hours through paid sick leave and more predictable hours. Low-wage workers need more hours and higher pay. The federal government, along with states that haven’t already done so, should increase the minimum wage and adopt paid leave requirements and predictable scheduling laws.

As Election Day draws nearer, we should be thinking hard about our priorities as a nation. Reducing poverty and the high costs of being poor clearly should be a top priority. The evidence from 2015 shows that proven anti-poverty programs like SNAP, housing assistance, and low-income tax credits are effective at lifting millions of people out poverty, reducing the costs associated with poverty and building family economic security. Other research and common sense tell us that child care, by helping parents to work and helping children to develop and thrive, can spur poverty reductions over two generations. But as overall poverty and child poverty rates in New Hampshire remain higher than in 2007, before the Great Recession,36 we must invest more to reduce the burden of poverty even further, and for more Granite Staters. And if we are concerned about trapping people in poverty, we need to maintain strong protections against harmful practices and state policies that place unnecessary burdens and requirements on low-income people that aim to keep them down. 


This report was prepared by Every Child Matters in New Hampshire and the Coalition on Human Needs.

  1.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov
  2.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov 
  3.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov 
  4.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov 
  5.   U.S. Department of Agriculture, http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/921672/aer759.pdf 
  6.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov
  7.   “The Eviction Economy” by Matthew Desmond, as printed in The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/opinion/sunday/the-eviction-economy.html 
  8.   “Poor Black Women Are Evicted at Alarming Rates, Setting Off A Chain of Hardship,” by Matthew Desmond, for the MacArthur Foundation, https://www.macfound.org/media/files/HHM_Research_Brief_-_Poor_Black_Women_Are_Evicted_at_Alarming_Rates.pdf 
  9.   Children’s HealthWatch, http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/MAhousing_brief_Oct2012.pdf
  10.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/rental-assistance-to-families-with-children-at-lowest-point-in-decade 
  11.   University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/fastfocus/pdfs/FF22-2015.pdf 
  12.   Child Care Aware of America, http://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/reports-and-research/costofcare/ 
  13.   The Commonwealth Fund, http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2016/aug/who-are-the-remaining-uninsured and U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey Health Insurance Coverage, released September 13, 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-257.html
  14.   Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Rulemaking_Payday_Vehicle_Title_Certain_High-Cost_Installment_Loans.pdf 
  15.   Center for Responsible Lending, http://responsiblelending.org/research-publication/predatory-profiling-0 
  16.   Stop the Debt Trap Coalition, https://medium.com/@stoppaydaypreds/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-payday-lending-d30a94ddcd44#.7m5gyyyt8 
  17.   Center for Responsible Lending, http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/finalpaydaymayday_defaults.pdf 
  18.   Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Rulemaking_Payday_Vehicle_Title_Certain_High-Cost_Installment_Loans.pdf 
  19.   FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax data, tabulated by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Minneapolis and accessed via the Consumer Credit Explorer (accessed Sept. 2016). https://www.philadelphiafed.org/eqfx/webstat/index.html 
  20.   https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/11114756/ChildAllowance-report.pdf 
  21.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 Supplemental Poverty Measure, released September 13, 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-258.html 
  22.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/blog/state-data-on-safety-nets-impact-in-one-place
  23.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/pdf/cnr_primer.pdf 
  24.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/national-school-lunch-program/ 
  25.   Center for Law and Social Policy, http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/CCDBG-Advocacy-Fact-Sheet.pdf 
  26.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 Current Population Survey, released September 13, 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html
  27.   Economic Policy Institute, http://www.epi.org/publication/wages-grew-more-for-low-wage-workers-in-states-that-raised-their-minimum-wage-in-2015/ 
  28.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/policy-basics-federal-rental-assistance 
  29.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/summer-programs/ 
  30.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/pdf/food-hardship-report-households-with-children-sep-2016.pdf
  31.   U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/153591/ChildEligibility.pdf 
  32.   Center for Law and Social Policy, http://www.clasp.org/issues/child-care-and-early-education/in-focus/child-care-assistance-spending-and-participation-in-2014 
  33.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/strengthening-the-eitc-for-childless-workers-would-promote-work-and-reduce 
  34.   Stop the Debt Trap Coalition, http://stopthedebttrap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/stdt_payday_proposed_rule_works_jun2016.pdf 
  35.   Center for Law and Social Policy, http://www.clasp.org/issues/child-care-and-early-education/in-focus/child-care-assistance-spending-and-participation-in-2014 
  36.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2015, calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

Granite State Rumblings: Strengthening Head Start Programs

school-bus-thoseguys119-flikr-cc

Head Start School Bus (Image by THOSEGUYS119 FLIKR CC)

Head Start programs are undergoing major requirement revisions for the first time since 1975. Announced on September 1st the Obama administration’s proposals include expanding Head Start to a full day for everyone, raising professional development and curriculum standards, and beefing up services for children with disabilities or who still need to learn English.

“Today we’re unveiling some of the most significant improvements we’ve ever made to Head Start,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who herself attended the early childhood education program as a child in West Virginia. “The new standards strengthen educational practices and are based on the best research about how children learn and develop.”

Head Start, which targets low-income families, enrolls nearly 1 million children every year, and has served more than 33 million children since its inception in 1965. These new standards are the largest revision of the program since 1975 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the biggest changes included in the overhaul is the requirement that Head Start centers offer childcare for a full day over the course of a full school year, which will be phased in over the next five years. Currently Head Start preschool programs are required to operate at least 128 days a year and offer at least a 3.5 hour day. 

A second major focus of the new standards is to solidify the critical role of parents in the program, which has been a long-standing cornerstone of the Head Start program. 

The new Head Start Program Performance Standards are effective as of November 7, 2016. However, in order to afford grantees a reasonable period of time to implement certain provisions that have changed significantly from previous standards, the final rule allows programs additional time to comply with some specific provisions.

Here are some of the highlights of the new requirements from the Administration for Children and Families at HHS:

  • Education services which focus on effective teaching practices and key areas of child development, using stronger curriculum requirements and child assessment data, to ensure effective teaching in Head Start, so that children are academically and socially competent. 
  • Reduce bureaucratic burden on programs by cutting the current 1,400 Head Start regulatory standards by approximately 30 percent. This will improve regulatory clarity and transparency by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative rules while setting high standards that will drive program performance. This will allow programs to focus on outcomes over process and plans. 
  • Over time, programs will serve Head Start preschoolers for a full school day and a full school year, which is based on research and evidence that shows that students who spend more time in high quality early learning programs learn more and are better prepared for kindergarten. 
  • Programs will create a system of evidence-based, individualized professional development that builds teacher skills and core competencies which includes the use of targeted intensive mentoring and coaching. 
  • Produce higher returns on taxpayer investment. When children start school ready to succeed, they benefit and the entire nation benefits. High quality Head Start programs have demonstrated outcomes that are just as strong as, if not stronger than, the best public pre-k programs in the country. Research has shown that comprehensive services – physical and mental health and family engagement – are critical to promoting children’s school readiness and to reaping the economic return on investment in early childhood.

The release is especially timely, since the findings of two research reports published in August found long-term gains for Head Start graduates. For example, a study from the Hamilton Project says Head Start participation increased the probability that children would later graduate from high school and attend college. What’s more, there was evidence for social-emotional growth in such areas as self-control and self-esteem. You can download the full report from the website for The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution. 


NHStepUp2016

Granite State Rumblings: TANF At 20 and Step Up Kids NH

Next Monday, August 22, 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of “welfare reform” in America. Congress created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, as part of a federal effort to “end welfare as we know it.”

Prior to welfare reform there was Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC which served as the nation’s major cash welfare program.

AFDC was established in 1935, as part of the New Deal. It provided financial support for single mothers and children living in poverty.

Under TANF, the federal government provides a block grant to the states, which use these funds to operate their own programs.  In order to receive federal funds, states must also spend some of their own dollars on programs for needy families (they face severe fiscal penalties if they fail to do so).  This state-spending requirement, known as the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) requirement, replaced the state match that AFDC had required.

States can use federal TANF and state MOE dollars to meet any of the four goals set out in the 1996 law:  “(1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; (2) end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; (3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out of wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and (4) encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families.”

States have used their TANF funds for a variety of services and supports, including:  income assistance (including wage supplements for working-poor families), child care, education and job training, transportation, aid to children at risk of abuse and neglect, and a variety of other services to help low-income families.  Since the four TANF goals are extremely general, states can use TANF funds much more broadly than the core welfare reform areas of providing a safety net and connecting families to work; some states use a substantial share of funding for these other services and programs.

~ Source: Center on Budget and Public Policy Priorities

The 1996 law authorized TANF funding through federal fiscal year 2002.  After several short-term extensions, Congress reauthorized TANF for another five years in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and made some modifications to the program.  Since October 2010, Congress has again continued to extend TANF with short-term extensions rather than a full reauthorization.

The TANF program is long overdue for reform. The basic TANF block grant has been set at $16.5 billion each year since 1996; as a result, its real value has fallen by one-third due to inflation.

Back then we really didn’t know how living in poverty impacted children. Now we do. Researchers have found that the consequences of living in poverty and economic uncertainty for children and youth is especially harsh and could linger for years. Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up poor are more likely to suffer from poor health, developmental delays, behavioral problems, and lower academic achievement. Even temporary spells of poverty can have negative long-term effects on child development.

So the question is: Has TANF worked?

Some policymakers have pointed to TANF as a model for reforming other programs, but the facts suggest otherwise. TANF provides a greatly weakened safety net that does far less than AFDC did to alleviate poverty and hardship, as the Center on Budget and Public Policy Priorities’ LaDonna Pavetti and Liz Schott point out in their newly released report:

TANF at 20: Time to Create a Program that Supports Work and Helps Families Meet Their Basic Needs

TANF’s combination of nearly unfettered state flexibility, fixed block grant funding, narrowly defined work requirements, and time limits has created a system that provides a safety net to very few families in need and does little to prepare low-income parents for success in today’s labor market.  Federal policymakers can address these problems by adopting policy changes in three broad areas:  providing an effective safety net to poor families with children, creating effective work programs to help parents prepare for work, and ensuring adequate resources are available for achieving these goals.

Twenty years’ experience under TANF has provided more than enough information to see that the program is not working as intended and is leaving many children worse off than they were under AFDC. States certainly could have done a better job to further TANF’s twin goals of providing a safety net and connecting parents to work, but the law itself is a large part of the problem. It contains poorly designed incentives and requires no state accountability for providing a safety net. It does not promote effective work programs or hold states accountable for creating them. States have used TANF’s flexibility to spend the money in ways Congress never imagined, with less than a third of the funds going to providing a safety net or effective work programs. Given states’ dismal track record, federal law should change to hold states accountable in these key areas.

You can read the full report Here.

Writing in a blog post for The Hill, Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program, and Rebecca Vallas, Managing Director for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress (CAP) said this about the TANF program:

While a robust economy in the late 1990s, along with expansions in tax credits for working families and childcare investments initially helped spur a dramatic reduction in poverty, once the economy slowed down, TANF’s flaws began to surface.

The program was not designed to respond to recessions. Indeed, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, many states actually cut back on assistance while unemployment and hardship were quickly rising. States began diverting TANF funds to plug budget holes, leaving just one in every four TANF dollars for income support to struggling families.
The result? Today, just one-quarter of poor families with children are helped by TANF, and assistance is so meager that in no state are benefits for a family of three enough to make rent on a two-bedroom apartment. In fact, TANF’s ineffectiveness at mitigating hardship has directly contributed to the rise in deep poverty.

In addition, a wealth of evidence now demonstrates that TANF’s work requirements are ineffective at boosting employment. That’s not surprising, given such requirements do nothing to address the lack of good jobs or barriers to work like childcare and transportation.

…..Without vital programs such as Social Security, nutrition assistance, and tax credits for working families, our nation’s poverty rate would be nearly twice as high as it is today. Moreover, these investments not only mitigate poverty today, they boost economic mobility tomorrow, improving children’s health, education, and employment outcomes in adulthood.

Ensuring an adequate safety net is something we all have a stake in. Job loss, low wages, ill health, and the birth of a child are the most common triggers of poverty spells in the U.S. More than half of Americans will experience at least a year of poverty or teetering on the economic brink during their working years, and fully 70 percent will need to turn to the safety net at some point.

We must take steps to strengthen the program so it can protect kids and families from hardship. Benefit adequacy, meaningful accountability, and reforms to support TANF recipients in obtaining the education and skills they need to get ahead are key priorities.

But we cannot stop there. To dramatically reduce poverty and expand opportunity, we must also pursue a bold agenda to build an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top of the income ladder. This includes supporting job-creating investments in infrastructure, research, and education, and pathways to good jobs such as apprenticeships and subsidized employment. It’s long past time to raise the federal minimum wage so it ceases to be a poverty wage, and to adopt paid leave and paid sick days so working parents are not forced to choose between work and caregiving.

We should also protect and strengthen key investments in nutrition, housing, income security, and healthcare—including women’s reproductive healthcare and rights—to ensure basic living standards for all families. And we must invest in the next generation by ensuring affordable high-quality childcare, pre-K for all, and access to higher education.

Twenty years later, it’s not just time to fix TANF; it’s time to enact an agenda that will dramatically bolster family economic security once and for all.

We agree.

GRANITE STATE RUMBLINGS

Mark your calendars for our 8th annual Step Up for Kids Day! We will be back on the State House lawn on this year with plenty of fun activities, games, and musical entertainment for kids of all ages!

NHStepUp2016

Granite State Rumblings: 4th of July History & Trivia and The Decline Of Child Well Being In NH

Does this year seem to be flying by to you too? This coming Monday is the 4th of July. Happy Independence Day!

In honor of our great country and her history I have put together some Independence Day fun facts, history and trivia.

On July the 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. Thereafter, the 13 colonies embarked on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. This most American of holidays is traditionally celebrated with parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country. As you head out to enjoy your holiday celebration, take a minute to think about how much you really know about what we are celebrating.

4th of July History & Trivia –

  • The major objection to being ruled by Britain was taxation without representation. The colonists had no say in the decisions of English Parliament.
  • In May, 1776, after nearly a year of trying to resolve their differences with England, the colonies sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. Finally, in June, admitting that their efforts were hopeless; a committee was formed to compose the formal Declaration of Independence. Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee also included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson presented the first draft of the declaration to Congress.
  • Betsy Ross, according to legend, sewed the first American flag in May or June 1776, as commissioned by the Congressional Committee.
  • Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776.
  • The Liberty Bell sounded from the tower of Independence Hall on July 8, 1776, summoning citizens to gather for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.
  • June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, looking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
  • The word ‘patriotism’ comes from the Latin patria, which means ‘homeland’ or ‘fatherland.’
  • The first public Fourth of July event at the White House occurred in 1804.
  • Before cars ruled the roadway, the Fourth of July was traditionally the most miserable day of the year for horses, tormented by all the noise and by the boys and girls who threw firecrackers at them.
  • The first Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi occurred at Independence Creek and was celebrated by Lewis and Clark in 1805.
  • On June 24, 1826, Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining an invitation to come to Washington, D.C., to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was the last letter that Jefferson, who was gravely ill, ever wrote.
  • The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign at the same time, nor did they sign on July 4, 1776. The official event occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed it.
  • Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826.
  • Thomas McKean was the last to sign in January, 1777.
  • The origin of Uncle Sam probably began in 1812, when Samuel Wilson was a meat packer who provided meat to the US Army. The meat shipments were stamped with the initials, U.S. Someone joked that the initials stood for “Uncle Sam”. This joke eventually led to the idea of Uncle Sam symbolizing the United States government.
  • In 1941, Congress declared the 4th of July a federal legal holiday. It is one of the few federal holidays that have not been moved to the nearest Friday or Monday.
  • As leaders in the revolutionary cause, New Hampshire delegates received the honor of being the first to vote for the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Be safe if traveling! Enjoy the holiday!


GROWING UP GRANITE 

We want to take YOU & the KIDS Out to the Ball Game!

Every Child Matters in NH and MomsRising have teamed up to take your family to the Fisher Cats!

Be our guest at the NH Fisher Cats vs. Binghamton Mets game on Sunday afternoon, July 10th.

We’ve got our hands on a limited number of tickets to this game and we’re giving them away for FREE!

All you have to do is SHARE our Every Child Matters NH FaceBook post or COMMENT on our FaceBook page as to why access to affordable, quality childcare is important will get FREE tickets to the game! * A limited quantity of free tickets are available.

The best part is that any kids who come to the game with an Every Child Matters ticket will be invited to go onto the field with the Fisher Cats and Fungo and Friends before the National Anthem for a fun high-five tunnel. PLUS we’ll draw the name of one lucky kiddo who will be able to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the start of the game!

We’ve also got great gifts for the kids and an AWESOME Raffle Prize which will include all the tools you need for an awesome Family Game Night at home.

See YOU at the Ball Park!


An editorial from Foster’s Daily Democrat:

Reason for concern from Kids Count results

The recent Kids Count Data Book showed declines in how children are faring in New Hampshire and Maine and point to areas of concern on which the public and policy-makers need to focus some attention.

The bad news is New Hampshire and Maine have declined in the state ranking of child well-being in an annual national study by Kids Count. The good news is both states remain in enviable spots compared to the rest of the country.

This annual survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation is one of the best measures of how young Americans are doing, and its Kids Count Data Book should serve as a useful guide for focusing public policy.

So how are we doing?

The report looks at the overall picture, then breaks it down into four core areas.

  • Overall, our kids’ well-being put NH at No. 4 among states. It had been No. 2 for 10 years, so this bears watching. Maine was No. 17; it had been No. 12.
  • Economic well-being ranked No. 7 for NH, while Maine was No. 23.
  • Education ranked No. 4 for NH this year, No. 15 for Maine.
  • Health ranked No. 25 for NH, Maine was No. 20.
  • Family and Community ranked NH No. 1, while Maine ranked No. 9.

Despite the view that the area has recovered from the Great Recession, there still are an estimated 34,000 New Hampshire kids living in poverty, according to the report. This is 4 percent more than in 2008.

New Hampshire State Sen. David Watters noted in a recent news article that 36 percent of schoolkids in Strafford County qualify for reduced or free lunches due to their families’ low incomes. It is not a good thing when more than a third of the families here are considered in need of aid.

In Maine, an estimated 19 percent of kids live in poverty. This drops to 14 percent in neighboring York County, one of Maine’s most affluent areas.

Amy Bourgault, state director of the NH Kids Count division, said one of the top concerns is children’s access to nutritional food. Good nutrition sets students up for success and is the reason why ensuring they get good lunches is so important.

Nutritional issues play a part in the NH overall score decline, as the state Health ranking dropped from 17th to 25th place. Bourgault noted they are looking at the root causes of this.

A major takeaway from the report is the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

As it noted; “More than two decades of research make it clear that growing up in a low-income family can have profound effects on children … poverty can impede their cognitive, social and emotional development and contribute to poor health.”

This begins a downward spiral that has implications and costs for all of us as in more high school dropouts, more teen pregnancies, less income potential and poor health.

The report noted that better socioeconomic status gives huge advantages to kids from those families.

“Advantages that start at birth continue to accumulate as kids grow up. By the time children enter kindergarten, the children of higher-income, college-educated parents already have an enormous head start,” said the report.

All is not lost for those growing up disadvantaged, however. The report notes that kids are resilient and can improve their future prospects. But the odds are stacked against them, which is why government programs such as health care, food aid and early education are so important.

Dover’s Sen. Watters is a big proponent of improving pre-kindergarten programs and notes that New Hampshire is one of only seven states that don’t provide pre-school for kids. He is right on in this regard, if we want to remain among the best states to raise healthy children.

For those interested in reading more about the report’s finding, go to

http://www.nhkidscount.org/sites/default/files/2016%20KCDB_FINAL.pdf.

Granite State Rumblings: Affordable Housing Vs Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Vs HoursOut of Reach 2016, a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition tells us that in no state, metropolitan area, or county can a full-time worker earning the prevailing minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

In 2016, the national Housing Wage is $20.30 for a two-bedroom rental unit and $16.35 for a one-bedroom rental unit. A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 2.8 full time jobs, or approximately 112 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at HUD’s Fair Market Rent (FMR). If this worker slept for eight hours per night, he or she would have no remaining time during the week for anything other than working and sleeping.

As Julian Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development points out, “Three-quarters of extremely low-income families pay more than half of their income just to keep a roof over their heads, leaving less money for food, child care, transportation, and so many other basic necessities. And it’s not just people of very modest means who are working harder to make ends meet.  Last year, rising rents in a number of cities outpaced the rate of inflation, which is hurting low-and moderate-income Americans… The crisis is also affecting seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes.”

According to the report, the lowest income households face the greatest housing affordability challenges. Extremely low income (ELI) households have income at or below 30% of their area median. On average, they can afford to spend no more than $507 per month on housing costs. An individual relying on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 2016 can only afford monthly rent of $220. Meanwhile, the national average monthly rent for a modest one-bedroom apartment is $850. The national average cost of a modest one-bedroom apartment would consume more than a single SSI recipient’s entire income. Such an individual would be unable to maintain shelter without housing assistance.

Wage stagnation and income inequality contribute to the gap between what people earn and the cost of their housing. From 2007 to 2015, the bottom 10% of wage earners saw a 0.2% increase in real hourly wages, while the top 5% saw an 8.7% increase, continuing a long-term trend of growing income equality. Between 1979 and 2013, the bottom 10% of wage earners saw a 5.3% decline in real hourly wages, while the top 5% saw a 40.6% increase.

The demand for rental housing is at its highest level since the 1960s.  In the past decade alone, the U.S. has added nine million renter households, but only 8.2 million rental housing units to its housing stock. Vacancy rates are at their lowest levels since 1985 and rents have risen at an annual rate of 3.5%, the fastest pace in three decades.

Growth in the supply of low cost rental units has not kept pace with the significant growth in demand. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of low cost units renting for less than $400 increased by 10%, but the number of renter households in need of these units increased by 40%.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, public investments in housing programs are essential to address the shortage of rental housing affordable and available to ELI and VLI households. One new and promising tool for addressing this shortage is the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF).

The HTF is the first new federal housing program in a generation to focus on Extremely Low Income (ELI) households. It will receive a first time allocation of nearly $173.6 million in the summer of 2016 for distribution to the 50 states and the District of Columbia. At least 90% of HTF funds must be used to build, preserve, or rehabilitate rental housing affordable to ELI and Very Low Income (VLI) households. A maximum of ten percent (10%) of HTF funds can be used for affordable homeownership activities. At least 75% of funds must benefit ELI households, and up to 25% can benefit VLI households.

Out of Reach 2016 highlights the affordability gap between the cost of rental housing and the wages of millions of renters who do not earn enough to afford a decent and safe home without significant sacrifice. Low income renters face the greatest challenge. Higher wages and a greater supply of affordable rental housing are necessary. If we make further gains in minimum wage legislation and expand funding for the national Housing Trust Fund, we can address the affordability gap.

GROWING UP GRANITE

In New Hampshire, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,097. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $3,655 monthly or $43,865 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of $21.09.

Mind the Gap: Housing Costs Outpace Earnings for Thousands of NH Renters

By Elissa Margolin

Many Granite State families breathed a little easier as New Hampshire gained jobs, and its leaders rightly took a victory lap as unemployment rates fell to the second-lowest in the nation.

But new reports show a side of the state’s economy that is not often measured: the significant gap between what families earn and what housing costs in NH.

According to the 2016 Out of Reach report, an annual look at what it takes to pay the rent around the country, NH families now need to make over $21 an hour to afford rent and make all ends meet. There are about 150,000 renter households in NH, and their mean salary is just $14.08 an hour, according to the report’s author, the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Standard economic practice suggests no more than 1/3 of income is spent on rent and utilities in order to have enough left for groceries, childcare, and transportation. That means the average renter family should ideally not spend more than $732/month on housing expenses. Meanwhile, in NH, fair market rent statewide is $1,097 a month, and even higher in places like the Seacoast.

It’s not hard to see where the struggle begins.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) recently released two reports detailing how difficult it can be to make ends meet here in the Granite State.  For instance, NHFPI finds that the incomes families need to secure basic necessities here in NH are actually several times the official poverty threshold.  A family of three living in the Strafford/Great Bay area, for example, needs an income of more than $63,000 per year to purchase essentials like housing, food, and medical and child care.

The upshot? Families are either paying more for housing than they can afford, sacrificing from groceries, or perhaps settling for situational childcare that is not of high quality or reliability.

The good news is New Hampshire has some tools in the toolbox to close the gap between housing costs and incomes and attain better outcomes for families, businesses and communities. The state recently removed a regulatory barrier standing in the way of private homeowners who wish to add accessory dwelling units to their homes, adding to the supply of units for people with disabilities, seniors, caregivers and young people just starting out. NH should now step up to fund its state housing trust fund in a meaningful way, as most other states do, in order to add more affordable rental homes to our inadequate supply. NH must also look at wage policies, including re-establishing its own minimum wage and raising it to a level that better meets the needs of the modern economy.

In the long run, housing must be included in the equation toward a more family-friendly economy.

Elissa Margolin is director of Housing Action NH, a statewide coalition of 80 organizations and businesses united around a common vision that everyone benefits when all Granite Staters have a safe, affordable place to call home. At www.housingactionnh.org.

Granite State Rumblings: Helping Children Through Extended Illnesses and Importance Of Reading Everyday

One of the hardest things for a family to go through is a child’s extended illness. It does not matter how old the child is, or how severe the illness, when your kid is not well, the world seems to be off its axis.

The longer the illness lingers and the more severe it is can bring great stress to the primary caregiver, family relationships, and the ability to rationalize. All you want is for the pain to stop, the medications to do their job, and the smile on your child’s face to return. Time seems to move more slowly and days and nights become one.

If the child needs to be hospitalized it can be a difficult time for him or her no matter their age. Illness and hospital stays are both stressful. They disrupt a child’s life and can interfere with normal development.

While they are in the hospital, children may miss their friends and family. They may be bored, and they may be afraid. They may not understand why they are in the hospital, or they may have false beliefs about what is happening to them.

Many hospitals now have on staff as part of their multi-disciplinary health care team someone who is known as a Child Life Specialist. I first heard of this position when a former intern asked me to write a recommendation to include with her application to the program.

Since then, I have seen the amazing work they do while Spidey has been in and out of Boston Children’s Hospital the last four months due to complications from a perforated appendix. I also have high praise and much admiration for the doctors, nurses, and other members of his medical team. His care has been extraordinary. He will overcome this and flag football, fishing, and Fisher Cats games will be back on our agenda.

I hope that you never have to spend a prolonged amount of time in a hospital with your child or grandchild, but if you do, please be sure to ask for the Child Life Specialist to pay a visit.

Here is information about the Child Life Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital:

Child Life Specialists enhance a patient’s emotional, social and cognitive growth during a hospital stay, giving special consideration to each child’s family, culture and stage of development.

Using developmental interventions and play, they help patients and families adjust to and understand the hospital and their medical situation.

Child Life Specialists:

  • Help patients develop ways to cope with fear, anxiety, separation and adjustment to the hospital experience
  • Provide consultation to the health care team regarding developmental and psycho-social issues
  • Provide preparation and individualized support before and after medical procedures
  • Facilitate developmentally appropriate play, including medical play, at the bedside, in activity rooms and in clinic areas
  • Initiate tutoring services

As professionals trained to work with children in medical settings, each Specialist holds a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the areas of child life, child development, special education or recreational therapy. Many Child Life Specialists are also professionally certified and affiliated with the National Child Life Council.

Child Life Specialists are also available to help families with questions that may arise about a child’s behavior and adjustment to home or school after they have been in the hospital. We offer:

  • “Back-to-school” programs, on referral, following a patient’s extended hospital stay
  • Resources tailored to meet your child’s needs
  • Suggestions to ease transition and recovery

Visit Activities for Patients for more information about activities provided by Child Life Specialists.

Mother reading to children (Neeta Lind Flikr)GROWING UP GRANITE

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say, Read Aloud to a Child Every Day? Does reading aloud to a child really matter?

YES!

And here is why:

Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills.

  • Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
  • “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” Torgeson, J. Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral, American Educator. (2004)
  • Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4. Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Reading aloud helps children develop positive associations with books and reading.

  • The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
  • Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.
  • Reading aloud is a good way to help a child acclimate to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.

Reading aloud helps children build a stronger foundation for school success.

  • “What happens during the first months and years of life matters, a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.” J.S. Shonkoff & D. Phillips, Eds., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), Washington D.C.; National Research Council & The Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
  • Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy – all of which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Reading aloud in the early years exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversations or screen time.
  • Reading aloud gives children the opportunity to practice listening – a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.
  • Reading aloud to a child gives them the basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  • Reading aloud helps them develop more logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.

Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Despite this advice, however, some educators and many parents don’t read aloud to children from a young age and thus fail to nurture avid and skilled readers. Indeed, this is especially true for children in low-income families. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 48 percent of families below the poverty level read to their preschoolers each day, compared with 64 percent of families whose incomes were at or above the poverty level. Children from low-income families are also less likely to have exposure to print materials.

So now that Spring is in the air and Summer is right around the corner have some fun, free time with your child. Visit the library and get some books.

Then in addition to the usual reading places—a couch, an overstuffed armchair, a child’s bed—consider less traditional ones:

  • Outside under a shady tree, in a sandbox or a hammock, or at a nearby park.
  • Toss a sheet over a clothesline or table to create a reading hideaway.
  • Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for long road trips or traffic delays.
  • Spread a blanket on the floor for an indoor reading picnic.
  • Use your imagination. Almost every room in your house offers exciting reading possibilities.

Happy reading!

Granite State Rumblings: Preventing Child Abuse

april logoApril is Child Abuse Prevention month. Child abuse was not a recognized legal concept in this country until the late 1800s; the early cases were brought by animal rights groups that expanded the concept from animals to children. Child abuse laws balance the obligation of the state to protect children and the rights of parents to raise and discipline their children. The social cost of child abuse is visible in our schools, courts and prisons; it also tends to repeat generation after generation unless the cycle of abuse is broken.

Years ago children were raised in stable families, in stable communities, often surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles. Parenting advice was shared “over the fence” or at the kitchen table. Parents had a trusted support system. Life has changed since then; families move more often, divorce occurs more frequently, and all the adults are working. There is no more kitchen table support. Family Resource Centers in New Hampshire offer all families, at all stages and levels of need, a place to gather, learn and share. They are the new kitchen table.

Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community.

The term “prevention” is typically used to represent activities that stop an action or behavior. It can also be used to represent activities that promote a positive action or behavior. Research has found that successful child abuse interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families.

Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.

The research on child abuse reduction is clear; build protective factors in families and not only will child abuse and neglect be reduced, but families will be able to raise healthy functioning children who are more likely to be successful in school and life. Parent educators generally agree on six broad areas of protective factors:

  • Nurturing and Attachment
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Parental Resilience
  • Social Connections
  • Concrete Supports of Parents
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children

Families with these factors in place have an understanding of what their children need, and equally important they know how to take care of themselves and to seek help for themselves or their family.

The impact of child maltreatment can be profound. Research shows that child maltreatment is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and those negative effects can last a lifetime. In addition to the impact on the child, child abuse and neglect affect various systems — including physical and mental health, law enforcement, judicial and public social services, and nonprofit agencies as they respond to the incident and support the victims. One analysis of the immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse and neglect suggests that child maltreatment costs the nation as much as $258 million each day, or approximately $124 billion each year.

This is an issue that must not be talked about for only one month each year. It must be part of the discussion of healthy child development all year long. Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, explains in this video why we all have a stake in the healthy development of every child.

GROWING UP GRANITE

This is The Week of the Young Child. The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families.

Because Every Child Matters in NH is dedicated to ensuring that all children, including our youngest, have what they need to grow up healthy, safe, and well-educated, we will be co-hosting a Twitter Chat this Thursday at Noon on the relationship between business and quality early learning. Our guests will be NHAEYC President, Jessica Sugrue and Grappone Automotive Group owner, Amanda Grappone Osmer.

NHPrimaryConcernsPlease join us on Twitter using #NHPrimaryConcerns.

And then hop on over to check out the newly launched Every Child Matters website! I think you’ll love our new look, new resources, and easier to navigate site. Spend some time on the site and then please let me know what you think.

Granite State Rumblings: Reauthorizing Medicaid Expansion And Making Ends Meet In NH

I could not have said this any better. Thank you Jeff McLynch for this excellent piece in Sunday’s Concord Monitor.

My Turn: Much further to climb on journey to economic stability

By Jeff McLynch

For the Monitor

If you’ve ever been out for hike, you know it can happen. You’ve been trudging along for a few hours and the top of the mountain finally seems within reach. Yet, after climbing farther, you realize it was only a false summit hiding the true peak; you’ve actually still got a long way to go to reach your goal.

When it comes to ensuring greater economic security, New Hampshire has a false summit problem, too. At 9.2 percent, New Hampshire’s poverty rate was the lowest in the nation in 2014, the most recent year for which such data is available. However, because of flaws in the way the federal government measures poverty, that relatively positive news hides just how much further New Hampshire must go before everyone in the Granite State can truly make ends meet.

Consider that, in 2014, the income level at which a single person was no longer considered poor in our country was just over $12,300. For a family of four, the corresponding threshold was a little more than $24,000. All it takes is a moment’s reflection on the expenses we incur in our own lives each day to appreciate just how low those thresholds are – and by extension, how inadequate federal poverty statistics are for understanding what it really takes for Granite State families just to get by.

Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, have devised an alternative measure of need that provides a more comprehensive assessment of the incomes families need to be able to secure life’s necessities. Referred to as a “basic family budget,” this measure seeks to remedy the two principal shortcomings of the federal poverty threshold. It reflects not only the actual costs families encounter in purchasing basics like food, clothing, shelter, health care and child care, but also geographic variations in those costs.

EPI’s findings for New Hampshire are revealing. Under its basic family budget calculations, a single person living in the Concord area needs an income of close to $31,600 per year to be able to afford rent, groceries and other essentials. That’s more than 2½ times the income at which the same person would be considered poor. The gap is even larger for families. The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family in the Concord area amounts to about $67,932 – almost three times the official poverty level.

EPI’s research also underscores how much more expensive it can be to live in the Granite State than in other places across the country. For example, EPI devised basic family budgets for 618 distinct communities across the country. For a family of three, only about one out every five of those communities had a higher cost of living than in Concord and other parts of the state.

In its new paper, “Taking the measure of need in the Granite State,” (see Growing Up Granite below), the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute explores EPI’s basic family budget findings for four key family types in various regions of the state and builds upon the data to try to understand whether jobs here in New Hampshire allow families to meet their basic needs.

To be sure, wages and salaries can be higher here in New Hampshire than elsewhere, but it’s likely that a significant share of the jobs available in the state leave workers unable to achieve a modest standard of living. Based on EPI’s research, as well as data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey, NHFPI estimates that about one-third of all jobs in New Hampshire pay less than what a single person would need to reach his or her basic family budget; as many as two-thirds of all jobs fail to pay enough for a single parent with one child to do so. Indeed, the typical wage in some of the most common jobs in the state – whether retail sales positions, waiters and waitresses, janitors, or cashiers – simply is insufficient to enable workers to secure even just the basics.

Unfortunately, a single solution to the challenges facing working Granite Staters does not exist. Rather, in the years ahead, the task before policymakers will be to identify and to implement a combination of reforms to help families make ends meet, both by bolstering incomes and by bringing the costs of basic necessities within closer reach. That kind of comprehensive strategy should aim to help people acquire the skills and education they need to find and to keep a job, remove barriers to full participation in the workforce, and ensure that everyone receives a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

The journey toward economic security is an endless climb for far too many Granite Staters. They work tirelessly each day, but remain unable to meet their most immediate needs, much less achieve their longer-term financial goals – saving for retirement, sending their kids to college or purchasing their own home. New Hampshire’s future will depend upon our ability to clear the path and ensure that economic stability remains achievable and within reach.

(Jeff McLynch is Executive Director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute in Concord.)

GROWING UP GRANITE

Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State
NH Fiscal Policy Institute

New Hampshire’s poverty rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest in the nation in 2014.  While that distinction should inspire some pride, it should not engender complacency, for, as a means of assessing economic security, official federal poverty statistics often come up short.  Indeed, economists and other analysts have long understood that the federal poverty threshold does not accurately reflect the level of income required to secure basic necessities, particularly in a state like New Hampshire, where the cost of living tends to be higher than in many other parts of the country.

Research by the Economic Policy Institute has produced a more robust measure of need, referred to as a “Basic Family Budget,” that more fully captures the cost of acquiring essential goods and services, from housing and health care to clothing and child care.  In some instances, depending upon a family’s size and place of residence, their Basic Family Budget is three times as great as the federal poverty threshold, underscoring that many Granite State families, while not poor by official statistics, still struggle each day to make ends meet.

This Issue Brief describes the federal poverty threshold, examines some of its shortcomings, and explains the notion of using the Basic Family Budget calculation as an alternative measure of need.  It also attempts to assess the degree to which various jobs in New Hampshire pay wages that are high enough to allow Granite State families to meet their basic needs.

Official Federal Measure Shows Poverty Low but Rising in New Hampshire

gsrmarch16_1

In 2014, 118,000 New Hampshire residents lived in families with incomes below the official federal poverty threshold, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau.[i]  This number amounts to 9.2 percent of New Hampshire’s population, the lowest share of any state’s population to be considered poor.  However, the issue of Granite Staters not earning enough for basic needs has steadily become more pervasive, with the number of New Hampshire residents living in material deprivation in 2014 almost twice what it was in 2000.  Consequently, as the graph below depicts, the share of Granite Staters living in poverty remains considerably above the 5.3 percent rate that held at the turn of the century.

Each year the Census Bureau publishes figures by family type that are known as poverty thresholds.  Essentially, if a family’s income is less than the dollar amount of the threshold for its household type, all the members of that household are considered to be living in poverty.  Below is a subset of the official federal poverty thresholds for 2014.

When the federal poverty threshold was created in the 1960s, research on household consumption patterns revealed that a family of three or more spent about one-third of its budget on food.  Consequently, the official poverty thresholds were created by multiplying the cost of a minimum food diet by three.  The only adjustments to those original figures that have been made over time are to account for the general increase in all consumer prices, better known as inflation.

Shortcomings of the Federal Poverty Threshold

Given this information, the federal poverty thresholds suggest that a single person who earns $1,050 per month does not live in poverty.  The same holds for a married couple with one child who earns $1,600 per month.  gsrmarch16_2Nevertheless, given the costs people face today, these numbers instinctively feel inadequate, an intuition that is borne out when one examines existing data on household expenditures.  According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a modest efficiency apartment in New Hampshire for a single person has a price tag of around $750 per month.[ii]  For a family of three, a two-bedroom apartment costs nearly $1,100 per month.  Based on these costs, shelter would constitute two-thirds of a poverty-level budget for each household, leaving little room to purchase food, clothing, health care, and transportation.

These examples demonstrate that the federal poverty threshold may not accurately capture the degree of economic insecurity individuals and families face. Supporting this conclusion, the Census Bureau concedes that the poverty thresholds are “…a statistical yardstick, not a complete description of what people need to live.”[iii]  One weakness of the federal poverty threshold is the assumption that households spend one-third of their budgets on food; current data show that number is closer to 12 to 13 percent.[iv]  Additionally, the federal poverty threshold does not account for geographic differences in housing and other costs, treating disparate places like New York City and Jackson, Mississippi equivalently.  Lastly, the official measure defines “family resources” only as cash income, such as wages, Social Security benefits, and investment income.  It does not add to a family’s resources non-cash governmental benefits (for example, SNAP or housing subsidies) or tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  It also does not subtract from a family’s resources such necessary expenses as out-of-pocket medical expenditures or commuting costs.

In response to these shortcomings, Congress requested that the National Academy of Sciences convene a panel to examine the federal poverty threshold in greater depth.  That panel produced a report in 1995 with a number of recommendations, which eventually led the Census Bureau to create what is called the supplemental poverty measure.[v]  This method did not replace the official measure, but rather exists to provide alternative figures for comparison purposes.  Unlike the official poverty threshold, the supplemental measure uses current data on household expenditures to approximate what it takes to purchase basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.  Moreover, the supplemental poverty measure accounts for geographic differences in housing costs, meaning that its dollar thresholds vary from state to state, whereas the official poverty thresholds are identical for the 48 contiguous states.  Finally, the supplemental measure adds non-cash governmental benefits and federal tax credits to a household’s income and subtracts out necessary expenses in order to capture the resources available to a household.

As of 2014, for twenty-six states, the poverty rate under the supplemental measure was lower than the official rate, meaning that the official measure is overstating poverty.[vi]  In eleven states, no statistically significant difference was found between the two measures.  In thirteen states, including New Hampshire, the supplemental measure found more people living in poverty.  Looking more closely at this final pool of states, two patterns emerge.  First, most of these places, such as California, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Northeast region, have above-average housing costs, which is not captured by the official poverty measure.  Second, the populations of the Northeast and Florida are older than the rest of the country.  This is germane because the supplemental measure deducts insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses (such as co-pays for prescriptions or doctor’s visits) from available financial resources.  Because this category of expenses tends to be significant for older people, subtracting them results in an increase in measured poverty for those 65 years old and over.[vii]

Basic Family Budgets: A Better Measure of Need

While the supplemental poverty measure is a meaningful improvement over the official method, it has its own limitations.  First, with the exception of housing, the supplemental measure does not reflect geographic variability in its estimates of costs that households encounter every day.  Second, the supplemental measure only provides information “at the national level or within large subpopulations,” meaning that it does not capture differences within states.[viii]  Finally, child care costs are not adequately measured.  Rather than surveying child care providers to approximate market-based rates, the supplemental measure uses information from working parents on what they spend on child care.  This distinction is important since many low-income families who are unable to afford market rates have to rely on alternatives for care, such as a relative or neighbor.

Given the supplemental measure’s constraints, researchers have attempted to construct more robust standards of need that reflect what it takes to achieve economic security and independence.  One such effort is the Family Budget Calculator compiled by analysts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington, DC.[ix]  Their objective is to estimate the “income necessary for families to secure an adequate but modest living.”  To achieve this, they identify the most basic expenses households incur: housing, food, transportation, health care, child care (if applicable), taxes, and other necessities (such as clothing).  From there, they price each expense as locally as possible for ten different family types, ranging from one adult with no children to two adults with four children.[x] These Basic Family Budget calculations are done for sub-state regions within all 50 states.

Driven mostly by geographic definitions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under EPI’s analysis, New Hampshire is divided into eight geographic areas.  Each is shown below along with a sample of towns, cities, and counties within each area.[xi]

gsrmarch16_3

In the following table, annual budgets for four family types are shown for each area of New Hampshire, along with the official poverty thresholds as a percentage of EPI’s Basic Family Budget.  What is evident is that the federal poverty threshold is far beneath the income necessary for any family to attain an adequate living standard in the Granite State.

gsrmarch16_4

A closer examination of EPI’s research reveals that health care, rent, and child care (for families with children) are the largest costs households face, rather than food, as assumed by the official poverty thresholds.  For instance, the figure below shows a Basic Family Budget for a two adult, one child family in Manchester, the state’s largest city.  As it illustrates, health care costs constitute 14 percent of their budget, rent comprises 20 percent, and child care makes up 16 percent.

gsrmarch16_5

In addition to varying by family type, the costs of many basic necessities vary by geography, and, as noted above, those costs are often higher in the northeastern part of the United States.  The table below provides a helpful depiction of such variation.  Again, EPI estimates that a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester needs an annual income of nearly $63,000 to secure a modest standard of living, a figure that ranks in the top fifth of the 618 family budget areas analyzed by EPI.  In other words, for a two adult, one child family, Greater Manchester is a more expensive place to live than 80 percent of US communities, outpacing such cities as Little Rock and St. Louis.  Greater Manchester’s comparatively high ranking is primarily due to higher costs for housing and child care.  More specifically, at $12,624 per year, housing costs for a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester are among the top quarter of areas examined by EPI.  Likewise, annual child care costs of $9,826 for a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester are roughly 10 percent higher than child care costs in Pittsburgh, which represented the 75th percentile of such costs in EPI’s analysis.

gsrmarch16_6

Many Jobs in New Hampshire Leave Workers Unable to Achieve an Adequate Standard of Living

While estimates of the number and share of New Hampshire households with incomes below the federal poverty threshold are produced by the Census Bureau each year, comparable figures for the degree to which Granite Staters are unable to meet their Basic Family Budgets are not yet available.  Nevertheless, NHFPI has attempted, based on state occupational data, to approximate how many jobs in New Hampshire pay wages that are high enough to allow Granite State families to meet their Basic Family Budget.

gsrmarch16_7

As explained in greater detail in the methodology section following the conclusion of this Issue Brief, NHFPI examined data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey on the distribution of wages paid in each of 603 different occupations in New Hampshire.  It then compared those wages to Basic Family Budgets for four key family types, and, using several simplifying assumptions, arrived at an estimate of the number of jobs in New Hampshire that pay above or below those budgets.  Accordingly, as summarized in the table above, NHFPI finds that:

  • Roughly 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for a single, childless adult to attain an adequate standard of living, as measured by EPI’s Basic Family Budget.
  • Only about 30 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for a single parent with one child to attain an adequate standard of living.
  • Approximately 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for two working adults with one child to attain an adequate standard of living.
  • Roughly 56 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for two working adults with two children to attain an adequate standard of living.

A review of the overall distribution of wages among all New Hampshire occupations provides a rough corroboration of these findings.  In particular, according to the OES survey, 25 percent of all occupations pay $24,230 or less, 50 percent pay $36,420 or less, and 75 percent pay $56,800 or less.  In turn, Basic Family Budgets for a single parent with one child range from about $51,600 to $61,600 – that is, ranging from just below to slightly above the 75th percentile wage.  In comparison, NHFPI estimates that nearly 70 percent of occupations do not pay enough for a single parent with one child to make ends meet.  Similarly, Basic Family Budgets for a single, childless adult range from $28,900 to $37,700, a span squarely above the 25th percentile wage but generally below the 50th percentile mark, largely consistent with NHFPI’s finding that about 36 percent of occupations pay less than the level needed for a single person to achieve an adequate standard of living.

To illustrate further the general finding that many jobs in New Hampshire do not pay enough for families and individuals to achieve an adequate standard of living, the table below compares the Basic Family Budget for the Strafford County-Great Bay Region for four main family types with the median wage for the 20 most common occupations in New Hampshire.  Check marks (P) indicate scenarios in which a particular median wage equals or exceeds the Basic Family Budget for that family type.  So, for instance, retail salespersons constitute the most numerous occupation in New Hampshire; the most recent data show that the median annual wage for such a job is $22,080.[xii]  That wage, in turn, is insufficient to meet the Basic Family Budget for each of the four main family types in the Strafford County-Great Bay Region.  Alternatively, there are 12,390 registered nurses in New Hampshire.  Their median annual wage is $63,820, a level of pay that exceeds those four Basic Family Budgets.

gsrmarch16_8

Such comparisons should not, of course, be taken as definitive.  Median wages simply convey the “typical” wage for that occupation; there can be significant variation in wages even within a single occupation.  Consequently, some workers in an occupation with a comparatively low median wage may still be able to reach their Basic Family Budget.  In addition, the table above is obviously not a comprehensive catalogue of the types of employment available in New Hampshire.  High wage and low wage occupations alike are left out of this listing, along with the prospect of out-of-state employment.  Nevertheless, such comparisons do help to highlight the mismatch between the wages many workers earn and the costs they face for putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Conclusion

Whether in the private sector or in the public sphere, statistics can have great value, but they can also fail to depict completely the situations or trends they are intended to illustrate.  New Hampshire’s comparatively low poverty rate is an excellent case in point, as it stands at odds with the economic anxiety many Granite State families continue to experience.  A more robust assessment of basic needs, as embodied in the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget calculation, offers a clearer understanding of how much further working families must go in the Granite State just to get by.  In the years ahead, the task before policymakers will be to identify and to implement a combination of reforms to help people make ends meet, both by bolstering incomes and by bringing the costs of basic necessities within closer reach.

For Methodology and Sources click HERE

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 12,540 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement