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Report: Federal poverty formula is outdated

October 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new independent report on poverty in California shows the situation is much worse than federal numbers would indicate.

In Los Angeles County more than 1.5 million people who live at or near the poverty level are receiving aid, including welfare. That's more than 16 percent of the county population.

A new survey by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development sharply challenges federal poverty guidelines to determine how much is enough in Los Angeles County.

"The federal poverty guidelines unfortunately are an almost-50-year-old measure based on the cost of food alone, and also based on the assumption that a family spent a third of their income on food," said Jenny Chung Mejia, program manager at Insight Center.

The new survey includes the cost of raising children added to the cost of food.

Insight's model uses a single parent with one pre-schooler and one school-age child.

If you make less than $18,000 a year, you are considered poor according to the federal guideline.

To supply just the basics, Insight figures it would require $49,000 a year in Los Angeles County, the equivalent of three full-time minimum-wage jobs.

If you take away all federal, local and state aid the same family would have to have an income of more than $64,000.

As Chung Mejia acknowledges, public and private caregivers have to have an accurate idea of where they are before they can figure out where they are going.

"We're just looking at a very modest budget, so we're talking about paying for rent, paying for a minimally nutritious adequate amount of food, paying for healthcare, childcare and transportation, as well as some other basic, miscellaneous costs such as paying for a landline and laundry, without public or private assistance,

What they hope this does is help people know the numbers currently used don't recognize basic needs and need to be changed.

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