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September 17, 2013

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Poverty rate remains unchanged, still above pre-recession level

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Today, the Census Bureau released results of the 2012 Current Population Survey. This survey provides data on poverty, income and health insurance coverage primarily at the national level. Look for more state specific information from CCLP on Thursday in conjunction with the release of the Census’ American Community Survey.
New Census Bureau data show that 46.5 million Americans lived in poverty in 2012. The poverty rate was 15 percent according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey-statistically unchanged from 2011. Median household income also remained statistically unchanged at $51,017 in 2012. One bright spot in 2012 was that the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance rose to 84.6 percent in 2012, a slight increase from the 2011 level.
Although the poverty rate was unchanged in 2012, the rate is still substantially higher than the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent highlighting how anemic the recent economic recovery has been. Since 2007, more than 9 million Americans have fallen into poverty.
Poverty rates varied by age and race. In 2012, child poverty remained high with more than one in five children living in poverty. In comparison, the poverty rate among working age Americans (18-64) was 13.7 percent. The white, non-Hispanic population continued to have a noticeably lower poverty rate than that of the black or Hispanic communities. In 2012, 9.7 percent of the white, non-Hispanic population lived in poverty while 27.2 percent of the black population and 25.6 percent of the Hispanic populations lived in poverty.
Income inequality remains in 2012
Median household income across the country was unchanged at $51,017 in 2012. Western states experienced modest improvements: real median household income increased 3.2 percent from 2011 to 2012. A troubling trend, however, is that median income has not rebounded during the recovery. Median incomes across the country have declined 8.3 percent between 2007 and 2012.
Significant inequality in earnings and income persisted in 2012. Women earned only 77 percent of men in 2012. Similarly, the median income for the black and Hispanic communities, $33,321 and $39,005 respectively, was much lower than the median income of the white community, $53,705. The Asian community had the highest median income in 2012 at $68,636. Furthermore, the Census data show that the top 20 percent of earners took home 51 percent of the total household income across the country in 2012 while the bottom 20 percent of earners only took home 3.2 percent. Middle income earners, those from the 40th to 60th percentile of earners took home 14.4 percent of total household income.
Health insurance coverage increased in 2012
The number of uninsured Americans decreased from 15.7 percent in 2011 to 15.4 percent in 2012, a statistically significant change. This means that roughly 3 million more Americans had health insurance coverage in 2012 than in 2011. Most of the increase in health insurance coverage was a result of an increase in the number of people covered by government health programs.
Government assistance programs provide crucial support across the country
The Census data show that government support programs are playing a key role in keeping families afloat in the wake of the 2007 recession. For example, in 2012 101.5 million Americans had some form of public health insurance; this is an increase of 2 million people compared to the 2011 level. Of the two most common public health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, Medicaid (the low-income health insurance program) covered a greater number of people than Medicare for the fourth year in a row. Similarly, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided vital assistance to millions of Americans in 2012. In fact, if the Census Bureau included SNAP benefits in its calculation of the poverty rate, roughly 4 million less Americans would be considered in poverty. As discussions continue at the state and local level about the value of these government support programs, it is crucial to bear in mind the value they hold for millions of Americans and thousands of Coloradans alike.


Date added

September 17, 2013

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To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.


Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.


Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.


Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.