2014-2021 Press Releases
United Methodist Women Opposes Changes to the Chained Consumer Price Index
For Immediate Release
June 20, 2019, NEW YORK — In a letter to chief statistician at the Office of Management and Budget Nancy Potek, United Methodist Women today raised alarms about the “Consumer Inflation Measures Produced by Federal Statistical Agencies.” United Methodist Women is the largest denominational, lay women of faith organization in the world. It is speaking out about changes to the Chained Consumer Price Index that will have an incremental and far-reaching impact on women, youth and children.
“If the Department of Health and Human Services were to move forward with proposed changes to the poverty thresholds, we would hope they would first conduct in-depth research and analysis on the impacts of the proposed changes on low-income women and their families,” said Harriett Jane Olson, General Secretary and CEO of United Methodist Women. “We would hope that they would first solicit input and comment from impacted people and the groups who work on their behalf.”
The proposed changes would impact low-income families, including those served at the nearly 100 United Methodist Women-related community and health care centers around the country. Executive directors of three of those centers explained in the letter how the proposed changes would impact family relying on their centers for services.
“Over 90 percent of the individuals living in our service area live below the current USDA poverty standards, as well as the national poverty standards,” said James Knight, executive director of Henderson Settlement, a United Methodist Women-related facility in Frakes, Kentucky. “We provide food assistance to qualifying residents via our food pantry and after school programs. We also provide food security programming for senior citizens in our community. We operate a thrift store offering donated goods at dramatically reduced prices to enable community residents to stretch their available budgets. Our programming also includes transportation assistance (both via our organization’s vehicles and via vouchers for personal travel for hospital and doctor visits). We help with utility assistance in emergency situations, as well as other forms of short duration assistance to react to an unanticipated expense with no savings cushion possible or available.
“Any administrative move that may further restrict access to services for our already underserved community will have severe consequences for our families,” he said.
Executives from United Methodist Women-related Moore Community House in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Wesley Community and Health Center in Phoenix, Arizona, also stated that the proposed changes would adversely affect the families their centers serve.
Carol Burnett, executive director of Moore Community House, said, “MCH uses federal programs (Early Head Start and Dept. of Labor job training) to support our families’ efforts, and we see the difference these programs make in the lives of families every single day. Children in our Early Head Start program receive nutritious meals, a high-quality, play-based early education curriculum, and a safe, nurturing environment for their social and emotional development while this program allows their parents to pursue education and employment. Moms in our job training program graduate and enter construction trades where they can earn higher wages. These programs remain fully enrolled and maintain large waiting lists. Cutting programs or eligibility for even one family would impact not just their current, basic well-being, but also their future ability to succeed.”
Blaine Bandi, chief executive officer of Wesley Community and Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center, said: “Federal poverty measures are of central importance to Wesley and its 6,700 patients. Approximately 42 percent of our patients have incomes below the current Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), and an additional 24 percent of patients have incomes between 101 percent and 200 percent FPG. Fifteen percent of our patients receive Medicaid or CHIP, and many other receive subsidies for Marketplace plans—all programs for which eligibility is determined by how the applicant’s income compares to FPG. Additionally, for patients who are uninsured or face high out-of-pocket costs, Wesley significantly discounts or even waives all charges; the amount of discount a patient receives is based on how their household income compares to the FPGs. Thus, any changes to how poverty is measured will directly impact how our patients access care, and how Wesley is reimbursed for the care it provides.”
The poverty line is presently well below a living wage, or the wage that allows families to meet their basic needs for economic stability. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, an adult with two children living in Ohio, for example, would need to earn $10 per hour to reach the poverty wage, but would need $27 per hour to reach a living wage for the household. Ohio’s minimum wage of $8.30 does not even reach the poverty line for that household.
“United Methodist Women is currently engaged in a Living Wage for All Campaign, advocating for legislation that builds the base for a living wage at both state and federal levels,” Olson said.“ As we launch this campaign in conferences in states across the country, we are hopeful that the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] will not undercut these efforts by raising the threshold for who can access life-saving services.”
Poverty measures are already inadequate, and well below household needs. Americans on average report that it would take at least $55,000 in annual income to be considered out of poverty. That is more than TWICE our current threshold. To change this threshold would be potentially devastating to many different populations.
“The change in threshold will disproportionately impact women, since so many beneficiaries of nutrition assistance programs and health insurance are women, many of them women with children,” Olson continued. “Over time, this will mean that millions of women could become ineligible for critical programs for themselves, their children and families. We strongly urge OMB to move slowly, conduct research that builds on current research, and solicit input on potential impacts, and circulate a refined proposal based on the data collected for public comment.”
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