Washington D.C., May 10, 2019 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- A new proposal from the Trump administration would change the way the national poverty threshold is calculated, potentially leading millions of low-income Americans to lose federal assistance.
Earlier this week, the Office of Management and Budget announced a proposal to change the inflation measure used to calculate the poverty line in America. The proposed formula would show slower inflation growth over time. The administration is currently seeking public comment on the idea.
If enacted, the changes would likely mean fewer Americans would qualify for Medicaid, food stamps and other federal aid programs.
Currently, the poverty threshold sits at a $26,000 income for a family of four. The consumer price index is used to help calculate inflation in adjusting the poverty line each year. However, the administration has suggested switching to the “chained CPI,” which shows slower inflation because it assumes that individuals will buy cheaper goods if prices of items rise.
Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush attempted to use the chained CPI in calculating federal benefits. They met with strong opposition and were unsuccessful in implementing the changes.
Critics of the change argue that it would adversely affect vulnerable Americans, in particular families who are already struggling to make ends meet amid cost-of-living increases.
Last December, the 2018 American Family Survey found that the vast majority of Americans raising children are facing financial difficulties.
Of those who have children at home, 73 percent said they worry about being able to pay at least one monthly bill, and 44 percent have faced an economic crisis in the last year – being unable to pay an important bill or going without food, medical care or housing due to financial difficulty, the survey found.
Financial concerns were also cited as a significant factor in choosing not to kids, the survey found.
Amid federal budget discussions last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned against proposed cuts to federal assistance programs.
“We urge Congress – and every American – to evaluate the Administration’s budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need, and work to ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the USA Military Services, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who heads the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
They called for budget decisions to be “guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity.”