Census Bureau Report Shows Arizona Poverty Rates Are Down, but Proposed Cuts to Safety-Net Programs Could Bring Dramatic Changes

By Giving Hope ArizonaNovember 13, 2017

Despite documented gains in reducing poverty levels, actions by Congress and the Trump administration are threatening to weaken, or dismantle, highly effective federal anti-poverty programs contributing to this progress.
That’s among the findings of Poverty and Progress: The State of Being Poor in Arizona and the Threats that Remain, a new report released today by the Arizona Community Action Association and the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN).
Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said many Arizonans have been lifted out of poverty by programs such as housing assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), low-income tax credits and assistance for people with disabilities.  
“But now these very programs are on the chopping block,” she said, noting that Arizona’s poverty remains higher than it was before the recent recession. “Budget proposals pending in Congress and backed by Congressional leadership as well as the White House would cut billions of dollars from these very programs.  Such cuts would cause millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Arizonans to suffer in poverty and near poverty.”
Arizona’s poverty rate declined to 16.4 percent in 2016, down from 17.4 percent in 2015, according to U.S. Census data released in September. At the same time, poverty rates in Arizona counties including Cochise, Graham and Mohave have increased.
Nationally, the poverty rate declined to 14.0 percent in 2016, down from 14.7 percent in 2012.  Safety net programs lifted 46 million Americans, including 12 million children, out of poverty each year between 2009 and 2012.
“Arizona is making progress in the fight against poverty, but we can and must do better,” said Cynthia Zwick, Executive Director of the Arizona Community Action Association.  “With job growth continuing and with strong federal and state programs for low-income Arizonans, we ought to be able to take steps to reduce poverty more substantially.  Unfortunately for the 1.1 million Arizonans who live in poverty, we have not met this challenge.”
Poverty and Progress: The State of Being Poor in Arizona and the Threats that Remain notes that anti-poverty programs lifted 1 million Arizonans, including 290,000 children, out of poverty between 2009 and 2012.  The report shows that 220,000 fewer people were poor because of SNAP and another 280,000 escaped poverty through low-income tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit.
And yet, the report notes that the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution passed recently by Congress would slash programs serving low- and moderate-income people by $2.9 trillion over a decade. 
Even with the Affordable Care Act remaining in place for now, the budget resolution would:

  • slash Medicaid by $110 billion by adding a harmful work requirement for recipients. 
  • cut SNAP by $150 billion and 
  • cut roughly $500 billion from other low-income federal support programs such as the school lunch program, SSI and low-income tax credits.  

And it includes more than $90 billion in cuts to educational and social services programs and roughly $300 billion in cuts to other low-income programs, including rental assistance and job training.
 “The budget shows the vision of the House leadership – to gut critical programs for low-income families in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations,” Weinstein said.  “If our elected leaders really want to boost our economy and create jobs and a highly-skilled labor force, they would invest in programs that lift millions of children out of poverty, not cut them. 
“They would invest in programs that allow parents to find and keep good paying jobs, like training programs, scheduling and paid leave protections, and child care.  And they would require the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share, so we can increase these investments,” she added.

Zwick said that safety net programs do more than lift people out of poverty.
“Medicaid improves lives by letting low-income individuals address health issues,” she said.  “Federal assistance also helps people find and keep good jobs and reduce housing instability and homelessness as well as food insecurity and domestic violence.”
The report points to a recent study that found that grown children of women who had received Medicaid during their pregnancies were more likely to have healthier babies.
“The good news is that we’re making progress,” Zwick said. “The very troubling news is what will happen if the programs that are working are cut or eliminated.”

To read the full report and for more information about the Arizona Community Action Association and programs and services available through Community Action Agencies statewide, go to http://www.azcaa.org.