FAMILY ECONOMIC SECURITY
The center works to identify and define the issues facing Texas' large low-income population. Whether it's documenting the actual amount of money it takes to support families' basic needs in every metropolitan area in Texas, or chronicling the real compromises working families make in order to survive, the center provides the data and the stories behind low- and moderate-income Texans.
Recent Family Economic Security Publications
According to new Census Bureau data released today, poverty remained stubbornly high in every region of Texas last year, showing the continuing pain of the recession and underscoring the need for Texans to do more to protect this vulnerable population.
The ability to afford a nutritious diet and get the right amount of exerciseâ"the two factors critical to maintain a healthy weightâ"is out of reach for many Texans living in low-income communities. In both urban and rural neighborhoods, a healthy diet may be hard to obtain due to a lack of supermarkets and other retailers of fresh, affordable food. And, many low-income neighborhoods offer inadequate opportunities for safe exercise, with community recreation areas on the decline. These factors are contributing to the alarming decline in the nutritional health of Texans and rising obesity ratesâ"problems with significant health consequences and a hefty price tag for the state of Texas.
Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director F. Scott McCown made the following comments on the Austin American Statesmanâs PolitiFact:âIn a post on December 15, and again in todayâs newspaper, the Austin American Statesmanâs PolitiFact labeled âMostly Falseâ a point made by U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett that is supported by mainstream economists, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. To that we say, PANTS ON FIRE.
(AUSTIN, Texas) ─ Today, First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, released a report highlighting the enormous and growing gulf in funding between states to help children in poverty that is the result of flaws in the design of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The report, âTANF Supplemental Grants: Reforming and Restoring Support for Children Who Need it Most,â calls on Congress to fix these flaws and restore funding for the TANF Supplemental Grants. The annual supplemental grants provide additional TANF funding for 17 statesâ"including $52.7 million for Texasâ"that have historically low spending per child in poverty.
Texas Poverty 101 (11/27/2011)
The term poverty is generally used to describe a condition of economic hardship, but it has a technical use as well: to define a specific low-income level for various family sizes. Many social services providers in Texas use this technical measure of poverty to determine eligibility for their programs. This brief report describes the official federal poverty measure, how it is used, and the extent of poverty in Texas. Shortcomings of this methodology and alternative measures of economic hardship are also discussed.
The Census Bureau released new national-level poverty data today. The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is a âwork in progressâ experimental measure intended to provides a more complete picture of what contributes to poverty by attempting to correct for long-argued limitations of the Official Poverty Measure. The Supplemental Poverty Measure differs from the Official Poverty Measure in many ways, such as including a broader range of expenses necessary to make ends meet (e.g., food, shelter, medical expenses, payroll taxes) and accounting for a broader range of resources such as income from tax credits and federal in-kind benefits (e.g., food stamps and housing subsidies).
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is an important federal program designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency.
Nearly 4.4 million Texans live in poverty. At 17.9 percent, Texasâ poverty rate is the 8th highest among the 50 states. Children in Texas are hit particularly hard: 25.7 percent, or more than one out of four children, are living below the poverty line.
While TANF caseloads are projected to increase 7.6 percent from state fiscal year 2011 to 2013, federal funding for TANF remains stagnant and threatens to decrease.
The September 13 data released by the U.S. Census Bureauâs Current Population Survey shows that in 2010, Texas remained the state with the highest uninsured rate in the nation at 24.6 percent. The total number of uninsured Texans is 6.2 million people, roughly 250,000 fewer than in 2009.
Children continued to lose coverage through their parentsâ job-based insurance. A significant positive note for Texas was the decline for a second consecutive year in the number and percent of uninsured children. This improvement is largely due to more children signing up for Medicaid and CHIPâs public insurance (which more than made up for the loss in job-based coverage), showing the essential role of these programs in protecting children during economic hard times.
Get the full story in the links below.
(AUSTIN, Texas) â" The American Dream means working hard to learn, earn, save, and build assets so that our families are financially secure. These opportunities are in short supply in Texas. As todayâs new jobs numbers show, Texasâ unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent, marking the 23rd month the state unemployment rate has exceeded 8 percent, which ties the modern-day stretch set in the wake of the 1980s oil and real estate bust (Feb. 1986-Dec. 1987). With the stateâs jobless rate higher than the past two recessions, many more Texans are experiencing sharp losses in their family income. A new report released today titled, âUnder Attack: Texasâ Middle Class and the Job Crisis" suggests that stagnant incomes, a lack of good-paying jobs, and a lack of health insurance are the real issues that are crippling Texasâ middle class.
The report, co-published by CPPP and national policy center Demos, examines how stagnant wages, falling union participation, the lack of good jobs and health benefits, and the rising cost of a college education are all squeezing the Texasâ middle class.
Over the past several years, unregulated and high-cost, short-term lending has taken a toll on Texas consumers and communities. Without state oversight, Texas consumers do not have basic protections against abusive lending practices or a way to escape the cycle of debt which traps Texans with unlimited fees. The 82nd Legislature has a unique opportunity to address these problems by enacting House Bill (HB) 2592, 2593, and 2594.
OpportunityTexas: Learn. Earn. Save. (12/9/2010)
To create jobs, increase income, and promote savings, Texas must develop and expand programs and policies to ensure greater prosperity for all Texans.
The 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) data released by the U.S. Census Bureau show more Texans are below the poverty line and lack health insurance compared to 2008. Most of Texasâ metro area rates exceed the U.S. average. Texas again had the nationâs highest statewide uninsured rate, and some localities far exceeded the statewide rate. Texas entered the recession later than the rest of the nation and experienced low rates of unemployment through most of 2008. These new data for 2009 reflect the full impact of the recession on Texas.
Uninsured, Poverty on the Rise in Texas in 2009 (09/16/2010)
The year 2009 definitively shows Texas has the most to gain from the health reform law, as Texas remained the state with the highest uninsured rate in the nation at 26.1 percent, or 6.4 million uninsured people, new Census Bureau data show.
The Bureau also released preliminary state-level data showing that poverty rose substantially in Texas, with 428,000 new Texans joining the ranks of the poor from 2008 to 2009; the state's poverty rate rose to 17.3 percent from 15.9 percent.
As the U.S. Congress returns to work today from their Labor Day recess, members must take action on Senate Bill (SB) 1859 to further their commitment to strengthening American families.
How Health Reform Will Help Our Economy (02/25/2010)
Passing health reform isnât just the right thing to do because it will cover many of the uninsured; it will also create tremendous economic benefits for Texas families and small businesses. Health reform makes health insurance coverage more secure, 1) reducing bankruptcies caused by medical bills, 2) allowing entrepreneurs to start new ventures without fear that leaving a current job will mean losing health coverage, and 3) letting small firms operate without providing health benefits while ensuring that their employees still have access to high-quality affordable coverage. Health reform also slows the growth in health care costs, 1) reducing the federal deficit, 2) shoring up Medicare, and 3) allowing employers to increase wages, hire new employees or make other investments in their business with money that would otherwise be eaten up by skyrocketing health insurance premiums. This Policy Page examines the many economic benefits of health reform. For an overview of provisions in the Senate health reform bill, see at the recent CPPP publication Whatâs in the Health Reform Bills?
Hard Times for Food Hardship in U.S., Texas (02/1/2010)
Nearly one in five Texans struggle to afford food, according to a report released last week by the Food Research and Action Center. The Lone Star State is among 20 states with food hardship rates of 20 percent or higher in 2008-2009. Food hardship among families with children was even more pronounced, with 27.2 percent of Texas families reporting difficulty affording food. The study calls for job creation measures and increased investment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) and other federal nutrition programs that help families afford food during tough economic times. To rise to this challenge, Texas needs to fix the problems in its SNAP eligibility system, where staffing shortages are preventing hundreds of thousands of needy Texans from accessing food assistance. Congress can help Americaâs struggling families by extending the American Recovery and Reinvestment Actâs (ARRA) additional unemployment benefits.
New Analysis Anticipates Child Poverty Increase (01/7/2010)
More than one of every five Texas children, or nearly 1.5 million kids, lived in poverty during 2008â"and when data from 2009 are compiled, that number is likely to increase to one of every four kids, according to a new analysis released Wednesday by First Focus and Brookings researcher Julia Isaacs. The increase in poor children is placing an even heavier burden on an already strained network of private charities and state agencies already reeling from the triple punch of inadequate funding, staffing shortages, and a broken eligibility system that withholds critical assistance to needy families.
Austin, Texas â" American Community Survey (ACS) data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than 3.7 million Texans lived in poverty in 2008, with children hit the hardest. Because Texas entered the recession later and experienced lower rates of unemployment than the nation through most of 2008, the newly released data reflect only the very beginning of the recessionâs impact on Texas. Due to the steep rise in the state unemployment rate in 2009, the current number of Texans living in poverty likely exceeds the 2008 estimates. Attached are tables showing local data for congressional districts, counties, and metro and rural areas.
Austin, Texasâ"The Center for Public Policy Priorities today highlighted a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) that gives Texas an overall grade of âDâ in assessing how families are doing financially. Texas is âtrailing behind the rest of the country in health care, education and asset-building policies and outcomes.â CFEDâs Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranks states on Businesses & Jobs, Education, Financial Assets & Income, Health Care, and Housing & Homeownership.
With the unemployment rate reaching 7.9 percent in July, coupled with a decrease in job creation, Texans face greater financial hardships, with many unable to pay their mortgages, afford health care and provide for their familyâs basic needs. With unemployment on the rise, more Texans turn to the unemployment insurance (UI) system for financial relief to bridge the gap between jobs. Unfortunately, fewer than 35 percent of unemployed Texans became insured during the first quarter of 2009 â" maintaining Texasâ ranking of 50th in the nation. Despite a low recipiency rate and a lower unemployment rate compared to the rest of the nation, the chronically insolvent UI Trust Fund ran dry after only six months of elevated claims. The Trust Fund now faces a gigantic deficit heading into 2010, billions of dollars in future debt service, and higher employer rates for years to come.
This Policy Page provides an overview of the Texas labor market and the state of the unemployment insurance system.
If the First Infantry suffered 9 percent wounded, while the Second Infantry suffered âonlyâ 7.9 percent, sending medicine to the First Infantry, but not the Second, would make no sense. Every wounded soldier deserves help. And, if the Second Infantry is bigger than the First, sending help to the Second would be even more important to the strength of the army. Yet, HR 3404 (McDermott) and S 1647 (Reed) propose to trigger an additional 13 weeks of critically important Emergency Unemployment Compensation for unemployed American workers based upon state unemployment rates. Unemployed workers in 28 states, including Texas, would not get help because of state rates below the trigger. This approach is unfair to American workers and counterproductive for the national economy. Congress should help workers in all states equally.
It's Getting Hot in Here (08/3/2009)
Texas Weatherization Assistance Program Provides Relief to Low-Income Families and Creates Jobs for the New Economy
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Texas will receive $327 million in additional Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funds through 2011. The new funds will increase the number of homes weatherized in Texas to between 30,000 and 35,000 homes, up from 4,173 in 2006. Weatherization helps low-income communities by making their homes more energy efficient, thereby reducing the cost of utilities and homes from extreme weather conditions. Weatherization also enhances the value of a familyâs primary asset â" their home. This policy page provides background on the Texas WAP and explores how ARRA funds can prepare more Texans for jobs of the future, meet consumer demands, and improve the quality of life for low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, and families with children.
SB 1569 on House Calendar Wednesday! (05/19/2009)
Unemployment is high and continues to rise. As of May 5, more than 353,000 Texans were receiving unemployment benefits, more than triple the number of Texans receiving UI benefits a year ago. SB 1569 by Senator Eltife is on the Houseâs Major State Daily Calendar for Wednesday, May 20, 2009. SB 1569 strengthens our UI system to protect unemployed Texans and qualifies Texas for $555 million in federal funding to reduce UI taxes for employers. The bill also provides a vehicle to extend unemployment compensation for about 70,000 Texans who will otherwise exhaust their federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) beginning in July. The federal government would pick up the entire cost to extend UI for these Texans, delivering more than $250 million in federal funding for the Texas economy.
As of May 5, more than 353,000 Texans were receiving unemployment benefits, more than triple the number of Texans receiving UI benefits a year ago. Currently pending in House Calendars, SB 1569 strengthens our UI system to protect unemployed Texans and qualifies Texas for $555 million in federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for our UI Trust Fund. But the Legislature has overlooked an entirely separate pot of money in the ARRA that is equally important. About 70,000 Texans are expected to exhaust their UI beginning in July 2009. ARRA will pick up 100 percent of the costs to extend UI for these Texans, bringing about $250 million in federal funds into the Texas economy with no strings attached.
Austin, Texas---The Center for Public Policy Priorities today applauded the Texas Senate for passing CSSB 1569, which will help modernize Texasâ unemployment insurance (UI) system. The Texas House of Representatives must now approve companion legislation before it can be sent to the governor for his signature.
Austin, Texas---The Center for Public Policy Priorities today released the following statement applauding the Texas Senate for taking steps toward repairing and modernizing the stateâs unemployment insurance (UI) system. CPPP also released an analysis of the benefits of UI modernization for each Texas Senate district. Last night, the Senate approved CSSB 1569 on second reading, paving the way for its final passage in the Senate.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Annie E. Casey Foundation share the belief that to secure positive futures for children, we must help their families and communities provide the needed resources and supportive environments. This paper analyzes the data collected by Making Connections-San Antonio about the debt, credit, and assets of low-income families living in the West Side of San Antonio, Texas. Based on these data, we recommend policies to increase savings rates and provide low-income, urban families in Texas access to short-term capital to meet unexpected needs while creating a regulatory environment for credit services, including payday loans and automobile title loans.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) helps keep Texas families and the state economy afloat in tough times. This public structure is weaker than it should be. The legislature can make modest improvements in the system to help more Texans remain active participants in the economy when they lose their jobs. Texans need this public structure more than ever, with state unemployment up 52 percent since the beginning of the recession.
The Texas Recovery Plan (03/25/2009)
Public structures such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Unemployment Insurance were created to help families in tough economic times and to help the economy recover from a down cycle. These are indeed tough timesâ"we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Tragically, many Texans are becoming aware for the first time of the crumbling nature of many of our public structures, weakened by years of neglect when times were good. Now that times are tough, we find our systems unprepared. Fortunately, though, the new federal economic recovery law makes resources available to help repair and improve these systems, which will in turn energize economic activity and get Texas on the road to recovery.
But, Texas will only get the federal fundsâ"and the needed improvements to our public structuresâ"if state policymakers make the right choices, soon.
Reliable means of transportation are essential for families trying to get to and from work, and they are especially important for out-of-work Texans trying to find employment. Current asset tests for determining eligibility for public benefits unfairly penalize Texan families for owning reliable means of transportation. CPPP staff recently offered testimony in support of updating Texas' asset tests to ensure that needy individuals and families get the help they need and still have transportation.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities today issued a statement from Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor, Jr., in response to Governor Rick Perryâs suggestion at a press conference that Texas should turn down more than $555 million federal recovery dollars for Unemployment Insurance.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) helps keep Texas families and the state economy afloat in tough times. This public structure is weaker than it should be. The legislature can make modest improvements in the system to help more Texans remain active participants in the economy when they lose their jobs. Texans need this public structure more than ever, with state unemployment up 49 percent since the beginning of the recession. This presentation details the challenges facing our unemployment insurance system and the opportunity presented by the federal recovery law to strengthen and improve our UI system.
HB 482 creates a pilot program to test one innovative approach to improve access to fresh produce in currently underserved communities. By providing small retailers in low-income neighborhoods with the assistance to stock fresh produce, and establishing a senior farmerâs market nutrition program, HB 482 has the potential to increase healthy eating, lower the incidence of diet-related diseases, support local growers, and inform future state and federal nutrition policies.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities today praised a proposal made to Governor Perry by Senators Rodney Ellis, Eddie Lucio, Jr., and Leticia Van de Putte, and Representative Joe Deshotel, to designate reform of the Texas Unemployment Insurance (UI) System an emergency issue to be considered by the 81st Legislature. The legislators included their proposal in a letter to the governor on February 24, 2009.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities today urged state policymakers to draw down available funds for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in the federal recovery law. The center highlighted an exchange yesterday between Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) regarding the counterproductive effects of states forgoing money for UI:
BERNANKE: If unemployment benefits are not distributed to the unemployed, then they won't spend them and it won't have that particular element of stimulus.
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): So if this was done on a wide basis, it would be counterproductive, not productive?
BERNANKE: It would reduce the stimulus effect of the package, yes.
âMany Texas families are confronting financial hardship as recession grips our nation, making it vitally important that all those eligible take advantage of the federal Earned Income Tax CreditâŚ. For a family struggling to pay medical bills, stave off foreclosure, or keep up with household expenses, Earned Income Tax Credits can be a crucial lifelineâŚ.â (HR 193)
As the nationâs most successful anti-poverty program, the EITC helps working families meet basic needs and provides a platform for their financial stability and success, while also acting as a powerful stimulus on local and state economies. Texans can apply for the EITC online using the IRSâs Free File service or by visiting a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site.
SB 1: Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee (02/16/2009)
Federal Economic Recovery Legislation and Texas (02/13/2009)
Today, Congress released the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provides $789 billion to stimulate the economy. Many of these measures will also help protect vulnerable Texans during this economic downturn. To take full advantage of the benefits in the recovery package and set our economy on the road to recovery, Texas must plan immediately. We applaud Speaker Joe Straus for appointing the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, charged with monitoring federal action and suggesting to standing committees needed steps to qualify for federal economic recovery funds. This paper summarizes the portions of the bill that affect the state budget.
Emergency Food Stamps for Hurricane Ike Victims (09/16/2008)
CPPP on Census' New Income, Poverty, and Health Data (08/28/2007)
Poverty Continues to Plague Texas (08/29/2006)
Statement about Hurricane Katrina (09/2/2005)
Tough Choices: Making it Work When Work Doesn't Pay (02/28/2005)
2001 Poverty Data Released by Census (09/24/2002)
Making It: What it Really Takes to Live in Texas (09/1/2002)
Texas Poverty: An Overview (06/29/2000)
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