Confronting Poverty

Giving a Raise to America's Workers

by Elyssa Koidin

It has now been four years since the federal minimum wage has been raised. Minimum wage workers currently earn $7.25 per hour—an annual income of $15,080 a year for a full-time worker. 

The situation is even worse for America’s tipped workers. According to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, “The tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991 or 22 years. In 1996 and 2007, Congress passed legislation increasing the minimum wage but not the tipped minimum wage.”   The restaurant industry--one of the most common industries for tipped workers -- is one of the largest growing industries in the nation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Currently, about 1 in 12 Americans work in restaurants. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), “Tipped workers are more than twice as likely to fall under the federal poverty line, and restaurant servers in particular are three times as likely to fall under the federal poverty line. Raising the tipped minimum wage remains a key priority for reducing poverty and economic hardship among workers who rely on tips.”

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Budget Concerns and the Senior Population

by Elyssa Koidin

As Congress approaches their August recess they continue to debate and negotiate budget and deficit reduction legislation. The automatic across-the-board spending cuts implemented by the “sequester” have been in effect since March. Many of the proposals on the table have significant consequences for the elderly, especially low-and moderate-income seniors.

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Map the Meal Gap: Food Insecurity in the U.S.

by Elyssa Koidin

This week Feeding America released its third annual Map the Meal Gap report analyzing data on adult and child food insecurity. This report offers a snapshot of what hunger looks like in America at the state and county levels.  50 million individuals were food insecure in 2011, including 17 million children. Focusing in at the county-level, Feeding America found, “Similar to the national level statistics, average county-level food insecurity rates across the country stayed approximately the same from 2010 to 2011, going from 14.9% to 14.7% for all counties and from 23.2% to 23.4% for high food insecurity counties Poverty rates for all counties and high food insecurity counties increased from 2010 to 2011 while unemployment rates decreased.” Data on states and counties can be found here.

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The SNAP Cutoff

by Elyssa Koidin

Starting November 1st, 2013, 23 million low-income households will experience a sudden and detrimental reduction in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits. This is because the increase in benefits created by the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 is set to expire.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the ARRA boost “increased SNAP maximum monthly benefits by 13.6% beginning in April 2009” in order to stimulate the economy and ease the hardship felt by millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table during the recession. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reported in January 2013 that this temporary increase “helped reduce food insecurity by 2.2 percentage points and reduce very low food insecurity by 2.0 percentage points among low-income households between December 2008 (pre-ARRA) and December 2009 (about eight months post-ARRA).”

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Equal Pay for Equal Work

by Elyssa Koidin

Fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law. This important piece of legislation requires employers to give women and men equal pay for equal work. In 1963, women were paid 59 cents for every dollar men were paid; today that figure is 77 cents.

While major strides have been achieved since 1963, including passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in January 2009, a lot of work still needs to be done in order to close the wage gap.

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