Living On Two Dollars a Day

Every year around this time, ACS reflects on the impact our work has for our clients’ stakeholders and constituents. We take into account changing realities and policies that help, and harm, how our efforts help children, youth, and families grow, learn, and thrive.

Much like our annual reflections, John Corlett, Executive Director of the Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland, reflects on his work and the realities for families living on $2 a day in his article published in October for Third Sector Today.  Corlett explains that while the number of Clevelanders receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits was ten times higher in 2007 than it is today, the number of persons in the City of Cleveland living in extreme poverty has grown by 40 percent since 2007.

Corlett asserts that a growth in deep poverty has persisted even as the economy has improved. A decrease in public assistance coupled with an increase in poverty (an increase of roughly 30 percent of individuals below 50 percent of the federal poverty level in Cuyahoga County) has left many struggling.   For an individuals and families in these circumstances, they live on less than $16 a day.

Corlett introduces us to Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, who recently published $2 a Day, a book that reveals how economic hardships have gotten worse for many families despite the overall improvement of the economy.  Edin and Shaefer explain that there now are one and a half million American families living on $2 per day, and that these households include three million children. The authors visited Chicago, Johnston City, Tennessee, and Cleveland to interview families in an effort to put a human face on extreme poverty in the United States.

Corlett offers a number of solutions to lift families out of extreme poverty.  He proposes using accumulated unspent TANF dollars to create subsidized jobs for those unable to find work. He also advocates increasing investments in behavioral health services, as many of those experiencing extreme poverty experience higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and other forms of mental illness. Corlett also suggests investments in literacy and adult education that could help the 66 percent of Cleveland adults who are functionally illiterate.

ACS continues our deep commitment to improving social issues that impact children, families, and communities through our work on early childhood, K-12 education, workforce development, Medicaid, and health and human services. We are proud to be working with clients who share that commitment.

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