Each year $53.3 billion, allocated for government poverty assistance, does not reach those who need it the most: children, mothers, the elderly and many more in our communities. Available as SNAP, EITC, Medicaid for Children and CHIP, these dollars remain unclaimed year after year. Lack of access to and awareness of these benefits increase the destabilizing effects of poverty on those in great need.
Nearly 9.2 million Americans eligible for SNAP have not claimed the benefit. These individuals are losing out on an average benefit of $127 per month.
Over 6.6 million Americans eligible for the EITC did not claim it in Tax Year 2016; losing out on a total of $16.3 billion.
Countless factors lead people to refrain from applying for benefits for which they are eligible. These range from a lack of education on eligibility, how to access the funds, to challenges in getting to an agency to apply in person, hesitancy to use state self-serve benefits systems with no guidance, and the perceived stigmas associated with receiving government assistance. Political apathy and lack of leadership can also influence access.
However, multiple studies have shown that these crucial programs lift millions of individuals and families out of poverty and alleviate their crisis of poverty for millions of others. Based on data from the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure Report, over 8 million individuals, including 4.4 million children, were kept out of poverty thanks to the EITC and the Additional Child Care Tax Credit in 2016. The report also shows that receiving SNAP benefits assisted 3.6 million individuals, including 1.5 million children to live above the poverty line.
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