Stimulus kept 305,000 Illinoisans out of poverty – just barely
Although I mainly think of the stimulus as a government effort to fix roads and rehab buildings, there’s also a lot of money in there for low-income working families – child tax credits, emergency unemployment, EITC and the like – all designed to help boost incomes for working families.
By how much?
Well, really, just a few dollars and cents.
Of course, we have to measure poverty somehow, and in the U.S., our poverty measure is an antiquated system based on Cold War calculations of living expenses.
In 2009, it’s $22,050 for a family of four. So families making $22,051 were “kept out of poverty,” lavishly spending their extra buck buying toothpaste at the Family Dollar.
The report says most families got about a $700 increase, which is nothing to sneeze at when you’re hovering above the poverty level.
It’s a victory – but mostly a statistical one. Is the standard of living much greater making $22, 750 a year than $22,050?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad the stimulus did something to put a little extra cash in the hands of struggling families.
But we need to be a little more careful when counting our chickens. “Poor” isn’t just a number on a chart.
It’s deciding whether you fix the car so you can go to work or pay to go to the doctor when you’re sick. It means choosing to pay the rent over the phone bill, even though that means the manager at the job you just applied for won’t be able to get ahold of you and will throw your application in the trash. It’s buying winter coats for your kids when they’ve outgrown last year’s instead of presents for under the Christmas tree.
An extra few bucks a month can help a little bit, but is it “lifting you out of poverty”?