The current poverty rate of the United States stands at 12.3 percent, or around 39.7 million Americans living below the poverty line. While the numbers are much lower than last year, it’s important to note that these numbers were measured by households, which means it does not include those living in poverty as homeless people, military personnel, or people in prison. It’s possible that the poverty rate did grow higher, but statistics wouldn’t show since it doesn’t include the rise of homeless people in the past years.
With flat incomes failing to counter the effects of inflation, poverty has become a problem in several countries around the world. Although governments are trying to create programs and policies to alleviate poverty, it is inevitable that, in nearly every city around the world, you’ll find people and families struggling to survive.
Using certain methods, however, could governments significantly decrease the poverty count? It’s possible, if they carry out these programs.
Create More Jobs
As the saying goes, give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for the rest of his life. Instead of providing unsustainable programs of sponsoring people in poverty, the government can create well-paying jobs so more people can earn their living.
However, this is easier said than done. To address unemployment rates, governments and businesses should create 5.6 million new jobs. To do that, they’d have to give incentives to entrepreneurs to create more businesses and hire more people while creating new infrastructure that will require more jobs. But it’s an investment worth making because more people in the workforce means a boost in our national economy.
Raise the Minimum Wage
People with homes and jobs are still considered living in poverty because they’re earning minimum wage. Minimum wage is not supposed to be the legal hourly minimum employers should pay, but the amount enough for any employee to survive their living expenses.
In the late 1960s, minimum wage for a full-time employer was enough for a family of three to be considered middle-class. However, while inflation steadily increased, the legal minimum wage was not always increased to meet it. Had it been adjusted each time there was an inflation, people would be earning almost $11 an hour, not the current $7.25, which hasn’t been updated since 2015.
Create Income Tax Credit
Earned Income Tax Credit has over 6.5 million Americans. Of this number, the 3.3 million of these children can graduate high school, go to college, and receive higher earnings in adulthood simply by providing parents with more income to spend on their families.
However, the same benefits do not extend to childless workers. By providing more income tax benefits for employees with no children, along with increasing minimum wage, more employees have increased their total income and have more money to spend for their necessities.
Create Better Work Schedule Regulations
Low wage jobs and part-time jobs come with unpredictable and constantly shifting work schedules. In the restaurant industry, for example, some waiters only receive certain number of hours a day or a week, making it difficult for them to earn a living. It also makes accessing child care difficult, considering they have unstable income and finding time to do important activities such as send their children to doctor’s appointments or parent-teacher conferences.
Invest in Child Care and Early Education
Not a lot of people see the importance of government daycare centers, but it is valuable to single parents and parents who do not anyone to take care of their children while they are at work. Without anyone dependent to care for their child, parents are unable to work and earn income for their children, so having accessible child care centers would mean a lot for struggling parents in the workforce.
However, not all child care is affordable or high-quality. One year of child care for children up to two years old costs the same or more than a year of tuition in a public college, or at least a third of income of average lower-class families. And the available government child care centers are only accessible for every one in six children.
Affordable health care has helped millions of Americans since 2010 receive necessary health coverage. However, some states still refuse to expand their Medicaid programs, making it difficult for people below poverty level to receive the treatment they need.
By providing medical healthcare, governments would make it less hard for people to receive medical attention. Since they need to spend less on medical treatment, their limited household income could be spent for other needs. The money they save from medical expenses can be also used to soften the blow of their medical injuries, such as taking time off work or being unemployed.
In fact, local governments that turn their attention to their citizen’s medical needs may more effectively address poverty and bankruptcy. Medical bankruptcy and failure to pay medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy and poverty.
Reform Re-Entry Programs for Criminals
Over 1.5 million Americans are behind bars at any given time, a sharp increase in almost 40 years and the largest in the world. The problem with the criminal justice system is that people who have been arrested for petty crimes have a record and are unable to find decent work because employers are less likely to hire them. This not only results in former prisoners living below the poverty line, they are also driven to pursue a life of crime to make ends meet for themselves or their family.
Climbing out of that stigma is a life-long and sometimes futile task. People with criminal records are barred from certain jobs – 90 percent of employers perform background checks, and more often people who were arrested but not convicted are also less likely to get a job. People are also unable to get housing, education, or even build good credit scores for loans and other services from reputable banks.
This makes it impossible for former prisoners to lead honest lives. In other cities where jails provide re-entry programs for criminals, instead of leaving prisoners to fend for themselves, they help prisoners rehabilitate and learn important skills before going back to the public and being qualified for a job despite their criminal record.
Having programs to address these issues, however, is not enough. Governments will have to invest to create new and sustainable outlets to slowly help people escape the poverty line. While it will cost millions and take a significant chunk out of the government’s budget to solve poverty, everyone will benefit. Apart from less poverty, which could lead to lowered crime rates, people get to earn their living and become productive members of the workforce.