The Trump administration is considering a change in how inflation is measured that would make it harder for people to qualify as truly “poor” and obtain “safety net” government benefits.
The possible change is one of many designed by the administration to make Americans less reliant on the government and also cut the instances of welfare and food stamp abuse.
USAToday reports poverty in America is coming under scrutiny – and it could become tougher to qualify as truly poor. That’s because the Trump administration is studying a change in calculating the official measure of poverty, which would rely on a less generous method of adjusting for inflation.
It’s a technical change, but it could have a very real effect, according to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, the co-executive director at the Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, a nonpartisan policy research center. Under the proposal, the poverty line would rise by 0.2% less each year than under the current method of assessing poverty, his group estimates.
The difference may appear small, but it would translate into 1.6 million fewer people qualifying as poor within a decade, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality said. Without that designation, those low-income households could lose access to benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps and dozens of other federal aid programs that rely on the official poverty measure to decide who should receive help.
At the same time, the Trump administration is rewriting rules for social safety net programs such as food stamps that makes it harder to qualify for aid. In his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Donald Trump praised his administration for an economy that’s helped “7 million Americans … come off food stamps.” But anti-poverty experts say rewriting the rules won’t change the hardship many Americans continue to experience – and could instead make life tougher.
The proposal would “reduce the urgency of reducing poverty” because fewer Americans would appear to be poor, even those with very low incomes, Dutta-Gupta tells USA TODAY. “The harm is real. The difference between getting Medicaid coverage or not can be life-changing.”
It’s unclear whether the measure will be adopted, and if it is, when it would become effective. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which did not return a request for comment, said in a recent interim report that its experts are currently finishing their analysis of the chained Consumer Price Index, which grows more slowly than the currently used Consumer Price Index for setting the official poverty measure.