Today, 37.3 million Americans live in poverty with 18% being children. To bring attention to this national crisis, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has designated January as “Poverty in America Awareness Month.”
The official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3%, up from 13.2% in 2008. This was the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. In 2009, 43.6 million people were in poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008, the third consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. Between 2000-2008, the number of poor Americans grew by more than nine million. The number of people living in extreme poverty, that is, those with incomes below half the poverty line, rose to over 17 million people. That is the highest level on record since data first became available in 1975.
As defined by the government, the new poverty threshold for a family of four is $20,614; for a family of three, $16,079; and for a family of two, $13,167. However, most Americans believe it takes about $35,000 annually to adequately house, cloth and feed a family of four. Can we really expect a family to live on $20,000 a year? So what can you do? The first step to solving the problem is understanding and learning about it. Secondly, you can help increase awareness of poverty in your community. Thirdly, give. It can be your time, talents, money or resources. Just give!