There are three main types of poverty, generational, situational and economical.
Generational poverty is a learned process passed down from one generation to another. We learn how to be dependent on the system because that is how we were raised. As children, we learned when the food stamps would be there, when the welfare payment would come and how to hide someone staying at our house so the welfare worker did not find him or her.
The public welfare system has changed quite a bit since 1996. The government has learned that it is better to try to keep families together, provided domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and molestation are not present.
The government now encourage recipients to go to work, and will assist with day care costs while the custodial parent is going to work and sometimes school. Each state has the ability to increase the poverty guideline provided that state is willing to put additional funds into the program. Wyoming chooses to use 100 percent of the poverty guideline for food stamp eligibility. States may increase the amount of the poverty guideline up to 150 percent for eligibility for their citizens provided that state supplies the additional funds required for the program.
Does generational poverty exist today? Sure it does because the person has to learn how to live without the government assistance. An example of the type of learning required is using a computer. Some of us are still afraid of even touching a computer. We think we are going to break it. We got along all of our lives without one, and we will continue to live and work without one. The problem comes into play when we are denied jobs because we are not computer literate.
Another big concern is the low levels of persons graduating from high school. An employer told me 30 years ago that he would hire a person with a high school degree over a person with a GED because the person with the diploma stuck with the program even though they may have not liked it, got along with peers, authority figures and such. The person with the GED could not hack it and did not have the self motivation to keep moving forward. The graduate learned some discipline along the way because they were not expelled. Thirty years ago a high school diploma was very important. Now in many fields, at least an associates degree or a certificate of completion from a technical school is necessary for a well paying job. What does the work place have to offer a person without a high school diploma?
There have been people that excelled in our economy without a high school diploma or GED, although this is only a very small proportion of persons without a high school diploma or a GED.
Situational poverty is a set of circumstances that causes a person or family to loose their current economic position in life. The situation many times is an accident or an acute or chronic illness. A person is on vacation and is involved in an accident. There is no medical coverage available to pay for the treatment. Because it was off the job, worker compensation will not cover the bills or the lost wages. Many jobs today do not provide many or any fringe benefits such as medical insurance, sick pay or personal time off, short or long term disability insurance.
When one of these events happen to the main wage earner in the household, the family finds itself passing through the middle class social economic status. Depending on the duration, severity and the ability of any other adults in the household have to command a similar paying position, the family may slide into the low-income social economic system.
Many persons have asked me, why me? I secured my education, I worked myself to the top of my field, and now this. We are surviving on food stamps and shopping at Goodwill. What did I ever do to deserve this? In many cases, I recommend two books for the person to read. The first is titled, We Are Not Alone, Learning to Live with Chronic Illness by Sefra Kobrin Pitzele, and the second is, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kuchner.
Working through these tragic events cause the person and everyone close to them to go through the five steps of the grieving process of Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and finally acceptance. The person with the illness or injury many time goes through the process at different rates than other family members. There is no set time to spend in each phase, and no two persons go through the phases the same. A significant other may possibly not understand how the partner can be so accepting of the disability when the injured or ill person is doing just fine. This is definitely time to talk with a professional counselor that understands chronic illness.
Economical poverty is a growing problem across the United States. Families and individuals do not command a high enough wage to secure rent or a mortgage, along with rising utility payments. There are no benefits included with the job. Even with financial assistance from organizations such as ours to get into an apartment or house, the monthly wages do not allow all monthly obligations to be met. Here is an example.
A single parents with two children ages 2 and 4, earns $8 per hour and works 35 hours a week. This equals a gross monthly income of $1,204. $8 per/hr x 35 hrs/wk x 4.3 weeks per month. The net pay is $1,092 The parent receives no child support. There is a court order for $400 monthly child support. Every time Child Support Services locates the non-custodial parent, that parent quits his/her job and moves starting the search over. The parent receives $210 in monthly food stamps. The state's Department of Family Services assists the parent with day care costs while the parent works. The parent only pays $100 per month for childcare.
The parent applied for low-income housing and for a Choice Section 8 housing voucher through the local housing authority. The waiting lists can be as high as two years long until the parent is eligible.
The children are covered by the State's CHIP for health insurance. The parent has no health insurance and receives free care at the Downtown Clinic on Wednesday evenings. The mother has a condition that the Downtown Clinic cannot assist with and the mother must seek care from a private provider at her own expense. The mother does qualify for a state assistance program that requires a $50 a month co-pay and she pays for an over the counter medication costing $5 per month.
The monthly budget has a $469 deficit.
Monthly budget for this family:
________700_____ Pay Day Loans: ________
Total Income: _____1,414______
Total Expenses: ___1,883______
Budget Outcome: __- 469_______
With this survival budget, $469 worth of obligations are not being met each month. In the course of a year, this deficit equals $5,628. The deficit is reduced $4,300 by the parent's income tax return. Because the tax return is only once per year, eviction, utility cut-off, vehicle repossession or lapse in vehicle insurance will occur throughout the year. This leaves $1,328, which is not recovered. Previous years, this family's budget was balance with the income tax return. With stagnant wages, reduced hours, 35 down from 40, and inflation costs, this family is worse off than they were before. This is true for most low-income working parents.
This parent would have to earn at least $13 per hour to have a balanced budget. These wages are not readily available in Albany County for non-professional jobs. To demand these wages, the mother would have to attend college, earn a degree for the type of work that is available in the county.
A member agency of United Way of Albany County, Wyoming