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USCM Supports New Legislation to Redefine Federal Poverty Threshold

By Crystal Swann
July 13, 2009

Representative Jim McDermott (WA), chairman of the Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, introduced legislation, Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009 (MAP), that would redefine how poverty is calculated in the United States. The legislation calls for the implementation of recommendations developed by the National Academy of Sciences that would take into account expenditures such as housing, child care, clothing and benefits such as food stamps, housing assistance and tax credits.

By establishing a modern poverty measurement, the legislation also will help guide state and local governments in how they meet the needs of their citizens. McDermott praised leaders like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for taking the lead on addressing poverty locally, closest to the people.

In a his press statement, McDermott pointed out that, “The current economic crisis has reminded every American just how vulnerable we all are and I think it has renewed our sense of pulling together as one nation and one people. Before the brunt of the economic crisis took hold, we said as a nation that we wanted to cut poverty in half over the next ten years; realizing that vision will take action and the Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009 is a significant step in the right direction.”

The MAP Act would help make the modern poverty measure accessible to state and local governments, who could use the new tool to guide and measure the success of their own anti-poverty strategies. Additionally, the bill would further the development of a decent living standard—in the tradition of basic needs budgets and self'sufficiency standards—to measure the extent to which people can meet additional needs while living modestly, and a medical care risk measure, which would measure the extent to which people are unable to afford needed medical care.

During the 77th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the nations mayors reaffirmed their commitment to supporting legislation to redefine the tool used to measure poverty but unanimously adopting the “ Revising the Federal Measure of Poverty” resolution. The resolution can be found on