Study Recognizes the Overlooked and Undercounted

A new report finds that one in four Pennsylvania households is living below the self-sufficiency standard.  Pathways PA calls that standard the true cost of living, and they’ve crunched the numbers county-by-county. 

“We look at the cost of food, transportation, health care, housing and child care as well as miscellaneous costs,” explains senior policy director Marianne Bellesorte.  “Using publicly verifiable data we’re able to determine how much – at minimum – a family would need to make ends meet.” 

For instance, in Dauphin County, a one adult household would need to earn $19,000 dollars a year to meet the self-sufficiency standard.  Add an infant, and that number would increase to $34,000 dollars.  Child care is generally a household’s biggest expense, according to Bellesorte. 

The new report finds that 25% of PA families live below the standard, up from 20% in 2007.  The highest numbers can be found in Philadelphia (42%); the lowest in Adams County (17%). 

The report’s called Overlooked and Undercounted: How the Great Recession Impacted Household Self-Sufficiency in Pennsylvania.  “The people who are overlooked and undercounted are people who are above the federal poverty level, but are below the self-sufficiency standard,” Bellesorte explains. 

Pathways PA wants policymakers to pay attention, and take action that leads to adequate work.  Bellesorte says nearly 4 in 5 of the households below the standard have at least one adult the workforce.

Senior citizen woman

New Report says Senior Citizens Have Seen Their Buying Power Decline.

Senior citizens are having to stretch their dollars more after two years without a Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment according to an advocacy group.   The Seniors Citizens League says older Americans have lost 32% of their buying power since 2000.

The group’s 2011 survey of senior costs report shows housing, utilities, transportation, health care and food costs are among those that have risen the most.

Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare Policy Analyst, says health care costs are not fully reflected in the COLA seniors receive and she says that has a lot to do with why it’s not keeping up with the costs.  For example, Johnson says Medicare Part B premiums have risen 154% since 2000.

Johnson says we need to start with a more fair and reliable COLA. She says the League supports legislation that would more accurately reflect senior costs.  She adds they also support a guaranteed minimum COLA.

Johnson says seniors are making difficult choices as a result of the loss of buying power. Some are delaying necessary visits to the doctor and filling prescriptions. Johnson says some seniors have younger relatives who are unemployed living with them and some older Americans are returning to the job market to supplement their income.

The Senior Citizens League is an advocacy group that was first established as a special project of The Retired Enlisted Association. The full report is available at their website.