Dana Hepper is Children’s Institute’s director of policy and advocacy. Below is her public comment on behalf of CI in response to the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to how we calculate the federal poverty threshold.
The Children’s Institute is writing in opposition to the proposed changes to the way the Office of Management and Budget calculates the Official Poverty Measure (OPM). The Office of Management and Budget should continue to use the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U) as their inflation measure.
We are concerned that proposed changes would reduce the OPM over time. This would have an impact on millions of Americans who participate in publicly funded programs to make ends meet and improve the well-being of their families. Critical programs that support the healthy development of children include eligibility criteria related to the OPM. These programs include Head Start and Early Head Start, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Free and Reduced-Price School Meals, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Women, Infants, and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If the inflation index for OPM changes to a number that rises more slowly than the current inflation factor, over time fewer and fewer families would have access to support families need to thrive.
Our experience is more families would benefit from access to publicly funded support, beyond those who are currently eligible under the existing OPM. The Office of Management and Budget should therefore consider changes to the way you calculate the OPM to increase the OPM and the number of families considered to be living in poverty. The cost of housing and child care has risen much faster than wages since the OPM measurement was created. A more accurate measure of poverty would factor in real costs for housing and child care.
Oregon has passed legislation this year to expand access to Free and Reduced-Price School Meals and with Women, Infants, and Children program. We are also increasing our investment in Head Start and Early Head Start. We have committed to expanding Medicaid to more children. And we are seeing the results of these investments for children and families, with more children receiving preventive well-child visits, more children enrolled in proven early childhood programs, and a plan to reduce child hunger. The federal government should be similarly exploring how to reach more families who need this support.