Change in poverty rule could force 'working poor' out of programs

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Potential changes in federal rules could force up to one million working families out of government programs.

The Office of Budget and Management is seeking public comment on the methodology used to calculate the federal poverty rate.

The Consumer Price Index is the formula currently being used, but there is a proposal to switch to Chained Consumer Price Index.

The switch could mean the federal poverty threshold would increase at a slower pace, or potentially decrease.

Durham County Social Service Director Ben Rose says a change like this would make many families considered "working poor" ineligible for programs like Medicaid, food and nutrition benefits, and housing assistance.

"One of the stereotypes about our programs is that people don't work. Actually, it's the total opposite, 60 percent of our SNAP benefits people are working, they're earning a wage. But their wages are at a level that it's hard to support a family and then when you factor in the cost that we see in housing, food, utilities, it makes it a struggle. Our programs are very critical in just helping people stay afloat," Rose said.

Between 15-20 percent of Durham County residents receive county services.

That includes approximately 33,000 food assistance recipients and 50,000 people receiving Medicaid benefits. National estimates say between 200,000 and one million people could be impacted by a rule change.

Public comment is open until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 21.

You can click here to submit your comment or send comments by fax to Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget at (202) 395-7245.
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.