Nearly half of New York City’s population was pushed close to the poverty level in 2011, a rise of more than three percentage points since 2009 when the U.S. recession officially ended.
Figures from a city analysis show that about 46 percent of New Yorkers were struggling to get by in 2011, the highest rate since it was first calculated in 2005, the New York Times
reported Monday. The benchmark is defined as those making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold.
Though the rise has since subsided, there are concerns that cutbacks in federal programs could undermine the recovery. And while the state has recently increased the minimum wage, commentators say it might not be enough to help.
“The next mayor is going to face a very difficult budget situation in which he or she will struggle to maintain basic services and have little room to expand welfare-related programs or services to needy New Yorkers, a fiscal situation that is getting very little attention in the current mayoral race,” said Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
The federal government sets the poverty level for a family of four at $22,811, but because of the higher cost of living in New York, a family of four in the city is considered to be poor if it earns less than $30,949 a year.
On top of that, the “near-poor,” or people making up to 50 percent above the poverty level, are also struggling because their higher incomes make them ineligible for many welfare benefits.
“After two bad years, things are not getting worse, and that’s the beginning of things getting better,” said Mark Levitan, director of poverty research for the Center for Economic Opportunity and the author of the analysis.
“In the very short term, I’m sort of an optimist. Looking further, I see storm clouds with tremendous pressure for austerity. My fear is that we are moving to another dynamic where employment and earnings are rising and the safety net is contracting,” he added.
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