U.S. Census: More Americans Below Poverty Line in 2007 Than in 2001

Congress Urged to Expand Child Tax Credit to Help Low-Income Families

Washington, DC (August 26, 2008) — The latest data released by the Census Bureau today show that more Americans are likely to be living in poverty in 2007 than they were at the bottom of the last recession in 2001.

Although the data show a slight increase in the poverty rate from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 12.5 percent in 2007, the data do not reflect the current economic downturn or recent developments like the global food crisis. It is estimated that skyrocketing costs for necessities such as food, fuel and healthcare will make the situation worse, and stall hopes for recovery. The national poverty rate of 12.5 percent in 2007 remains above its 2001 level of 11.7 percent.

To help ease the burden on struggling families, RESULTS is calling on Congress to expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Currently, the CTC provides a credit of up to $1,000 for each child to families with a minimum annual income of $12,050. Lowering the threshold to include families who earn a minimum of $8,500 in a year would mean that an additional 3 million children could be covered, and 10 million more low-income families could receive desperately needed relief.

“The numbers released today are not just statistics — the struggles families are facing across the country to make ends meet are very real,” said Meredith Dodson, Domestic Campaign Manager for RESULTS. “While the price of food goes up, the average food stamp benefit remains at $1 per person per meal. Congress must do something about this — and they can, by acting next month to expand access to the Child Tax Credit to 3 million more kids from low-income families.”

The past year has forced families across the country to struggle to make ends meet. The effect of the economic downturn can be seen in the rise in the number of participants in the Food Stamp Program. In April 2008, nearly 1.8 million more people participated in the Food Stamp Program than in April 2007, according to the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C. Total participation in the program is more than 28 million — the highest in the history of the program, with the exception of a temporary spike in the 2005 aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Half of the participants in the program are children.

“While expanding the CTC will not solve the larger problem of more Americans living in poverty than there were eight years ago, it will provide urgently needed relief to struggling families,” said Dodson. “When Congress returns in September, they must provide this lifeline to poor working families.”

“In addition, as Congress considers an economic recovery package, they can enact smart policies that will help stimulate the economy and support struggling families to make ends meet. The best example of this is a temporary boost in food stamp benefits. We hope that Congress and the president can come together to do the right thing for kids and families living in poverty.”