Last week the Census Bureau released the latest data on poverty rates across the US. The good news - poverty has decreased slightly (from 21.8% in 2012 to 19.9% in 2013), there still are far too many American living in poverty. The report also showed that poverty-reduction measures are very successful. SNAP (aka food stamps) lifted 3.7 million people out of poverty, and unemployment insurance helped another 1.2 million. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, more Americans than ever now have health insurance. (http://www.chn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/National-Final-Poverty-Day-Report-2013-Data.pdf)
Unfortunately, the good news is not good enough. Too many American are still living in poverty. Programs proven to work have had their funding slashed – including SNAP, unemployment, low-cost housing, and early childhood education. The ACA is under fire and many states, including Wisconsin, have refused federal funding to expand Medicaid. Nationally, no state has more than 34 low-income housing rentals available for every 100 households living in poverty. Every state reported at least half of their extremely low-income families (making under 30% of the area median income) spent more than half their income on rent. In the greater Milwaukee area, there are only 3 rental units available for every 100 deeply low-income households (making under 15% of area median income). (http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/HS_4-1.pdf). On average in Wisconsin, minimum wage workers would have to work 81 hours/wk in order to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment without paying more than 30% of their income on housing.
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice and many of our sister organizations are leading initiatives to help raise awareness and advocate for policies that we know work. Chief among them is raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Please join WFVJ and our partner, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin, for our upcoming Minimum Wage Challenge (http://wisconsinfaithvoicesforjustice.weebly.com/minimum-wage-challenge.html), Many of us are participating the week of Oct. 5-11, but others are choosing different weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year. Whichever you choose, be sure to send in your pledge (http://wisconsinfaithvoicesforjustice.weebly.com/pledge-form-minimum-wage-challenge.html) and write about your experiences on our Facebook blog (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1441306156156072/)
Keep an eye on this space for coming information on our upcoming Why Poverty? Economic Justice Film Festival, Oct. 16 – Dec. 10!