New Jerseyans are falling below the federal poverty level at alarming rates. With continued layoffs of public workers expected in 2012, the rate will continue to climb. Most alarming, children are falling below the poverty level as never before. The economic crisis has resulted in thousands of New Jerseyans dropping below the federal poverty level, raising the number of citizens living in poverty to the highest point in years.
According to Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a non-profit group, one-third of New Jersey’s children are living in low income environments. In addition, New Jersey Legal Services has indicated that poverty levels in the State are rising in every area. Families with two children are considered to be living below the poverty level if they have an annual income of $17, 285. Families are considered to be living at the brink of poverty if they earn less than $34,500. Families with children living on food stamps are rising to record levels. Homelessness and the number of New Jerseyans who rely on soup kitchens and charitable food pantries are rising, as well. Perhaps most disconcerting is that the food pantries cannot provide all the food that is needed.
New Jersey’s history over the last few decades has suggested that, as a State, we would prefer that people of modest means should live elsewhere. The failure of creating low income housing is an indication of this phenomenon. The Mount Laurel decision did nothing to help those with limited means in housing. However, community after community has publicly stated that they do not want low income housing units.
The agenda of the Christie Administration does not address the needs of the less fortunate. It appears that the State has directed its support to upper middle class and wealthy home owners. Property taxes are making it more difficult for working class families to own homes, and there is no plan to help those families as they lose their homes and their jobs. Interestingly, fewer and fewer of our young people will be able to afford a college education. The American Dream is rapidly disappearing.
The New Jersey Coalition for Supportive Housing engaged in a tally of the State’s homeless persons and found the number to be rising to unprecedented heights. However, their count may be lower than the actual number, considering that the winter weather interfered with the tally. However, the Supportive Housing group found an alarming number of people living in back alleys and under bridges.
The primary concern that has been publicly communicated by the Governor is that we must lower the tax burden. Nevertheless, there appears to be no cohesive plan that will actually do so. Yet, we will be a State with less police, fire fighters, and teachers and a growing population struggling to survive. The Governor has done a great service by being intolerant of public corruption, where the true victims are those without resources. In fact, there is still much work to be done in that area as there are still public officials who have looked for ways to enrich themselves while those of modest means suffer. But the Administration’s agenda should place a greater value on the worth of every individual, including those who may never own a home, or send their children to college.