The readers’ forum

Policymakers are making poverty worse in Florida


Recently the U.S. Census released new Supplemental Poverty Measure numbers for 2012. Data show that Florida’s poverty problem is much worse than official poverty rates would have us believe. Using three-year averages for the years 2010-2012, SPM data show that Florida has the third-highest poverty rate among the 50 states with 19.5 percent of Floridians in poverty (about 3.7 million), well above the national average of 16 percent. The more conservative official poverty rate for Florida is still a troublesome 15.5 percent (about 2.9 million Floridians).

While the data continue to point to the growing severity of Florida’s poverty problem state and federal policies have simply ignored the problem. On Nov. 1 the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was cut by $5 billion, cutting monthly benefits anywhere from $11 to $36 depending on household size. This is worrisome as one in four American children lives in a household that receives SNAP. The average monthly benefit in Florida for SNAP is already a shockingly low $138.98 per person, an allotment of about $1.54 per meal. Nonetheless, Congress plans to cut at least an additional $11 billion of the SNAP budget over the next two years.

Likewise in Florida, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families offers an unlivable maximum monthly benefit for a family of three of $303, a figure that annually loses its purchasing power due to inflation. Children are also the main recipients of TANF in Florida, 81.8 percent of all recipients. However, Florida policymakers felt no urgency to help them as the state had $136.6 million in unspent TANF funds at the end of the 2012 fiscal year.

It’s clear that state and federal policymakers are actively making poverty worse in Florida and across the U.S. by making it difficult to apply and qualify for assistance and by cutting funds. In 2012 only one in four poor families received TANF benefits, most of which were no-parent or single-parent families while 15 percent of American families could not ensure the health of their family due to a lack of food.

Policymakers and voters alike should know that supporting SNAP and TANF not only helps the millions of Floridians suffering in poverty, many of whom are children, but it also contributes to economic growth. After all, one person’s spending is another’s income and we can all benefit from helping Florida’s poor to spend on the basic necessities they need to survive.

Alí R. Bustamante, visiting professor and research associate,

Florida International University, Miami

Read more Letters to the Editor stories from the Miami Herald

  • The readers’ forum

    Partners in stopping human trafficking

    The Aug. 18 article Council aims to fight human trafficking describes how Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will lead the new Statewide Council on Human Trafficking in tackling the issue prevalent in Florida. The new Council goes hand-in-hand with the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services’ efforts to get critical services closer to human trafficking victims.

  • Fare increase for disabled ‘un-American’

    Why should residents of Miami-Dade County with disabilities have to pay more to use public transportation? They don’t pay for the construction and maintenance of accessibility ramps in the front of buildings? That’s the government’s — the community’s — responsibility, as agreed to under the landmark legislation passed 25 years ago known as the American’s With Disabilities Act or ADA, enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.

  • Zoo Miami’s angels

    It’s Sunday morning and I settle in to read the Herald. I pick up the Tropical Life section and am drawn to the lead article, Zoo Miami’s angels, by Ron Magill, the zoo’s communications director. Magill is a treasure to South Florida because of his super work and devotion to one of the finest zoos in the country.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category