Economic Opportunity is Slip Slidin’ Away for Most New Jerseyans

promoted by Rosi

As you may have read in the press and here on Blue Jersey, yesterday the US Census released new comprehensive data from 2012 on incomes, demographics, poverty and more. The picture for New Jersey, unfortunately, is not a pretty one. In the post-recession period from 2009 to 2012, New Jersey has seen: Fewer households in the middle class, lower median incomes, greater income inequality and dramatic increases in poverty.

As my colleague Ray Castro explains in an Issue Brief we released yesterday, “three years into the national recovery, New Jersey’s middle class is worse off and poverty is deepening for already-poor families.”

New Jersey was one of only five states in the country to see an increase in family poverty from 2011 to 2012, and one in ten residents now live below the official federal poverty level. Even more – one in four – live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is considered a better measurement of true hardship in high-cost New Jersey.

poverty

One place we can clearly see the impact of increasing poverty and strain on the middle class is the dramatic increase in the share of New Jersey households who are receiving food stamps: That share rose to 9.3 percent in 2012, up from 5.5 percent in 2009 (it was 8 percent in 2011). In other words, the share of households requiring food stamps jumped by an alarming 69 percent in just three years. Yet the House GOP voted just last night to cut the SNAP program. (We should thank New Jersey’s two Republican Congressmen – LoBiondo and Smith – who stood up to their party and voted no.)

The stats are disturbing, and worth a look – but the solutions are equally important, because there are actions the state can take to help reverse this slide:

• Restore the 20 percent cut in the state Earned Income Tax Credit which mainly helps working families with children

• Increase the eligibility level for WorkFirst NJ, which now provides temporary cash assistance to less than half the families with children in poverty

• Increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation

• Maintain housing programs that support struggling working families

• Increase state efforts to provide health insurance to poor and working families under the Affordable Care Act

• Invest in high-quality preschool for more children from poor families

• Strongly oppose proposed draconian federal cutbacks in food stamps, unemployment insurance, health coverage and other safety net programs

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