Without any government intervention, 31% of Oregon children would live in families that are unable to meet basic needs like groceries, housing, and childcare, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The KIDS COUNT® Data Snapshot, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, also finds that taking the value of social programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) into account reduces this rate to 14%.
The report analyzes the U.S. Census Bureau’s alternate, more accurate, measure of family economic security, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), to evaluate the effectiveness of the social safety net in helping families meet their basic needs. According to the report, social programs reduced the number of children living in families that are unable to meet basic needs by at least one-third in every state.
However, child poverty remains high in spite of these investments, especially among children of color. Even taking into account the value of safety net programs, 25% of children of color in Oregon live in families unable to meet basic needs, compared to 10% of their non-Hispanic White peers.
“Too many hard working families are struggling to get ahead in this economy, but the social safety net is doing what it was designed to do,” says Children First for Oregon Executive Director Tonia Hunt. “These critical programs are helping thousands of families in Oregon put food on their table and keep roofs over their heads. Now we need to work to strengthen these programs so that no child goes without basic needs being met.”
In Oregon, SNAP illustrates both the success and inadequacy of the safety net in helping families meet their basic needs. Due to extensive outreach within the state, Oregon has one of the nation’s highest rates of participation in SNAP, and the program reduces the rate of children with unmet basic needs by more than 20%. “SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger in Oregon,” says Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate at Oregon Food Bank. “But for most families, SNAP benefits are insufficient to meet basic nutritional requirements for the whole month.”
To create an economy in which all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy, smart, and economically secure, Children First for Oregon has convened 60 pro-child advocacy organizations to form the 2015 Children’s Agenda. The Agenda includes legislative priorities that will reward hard work with family-sustaining wages and make critical investments to strengthen the social safety net, such as:
- increasing the number of families served by Employment Related Day Care;
- strengthening Oregon’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; and
- renewing the Working Family Childcare Tax Credit.
“When we invest in Oregon’s children, we invest in our future,” says Hunt. “As citizens and advocates we must come together to demand policies that make Oregon the best place to be a kid.”
Click here to download the full report.