Economic Insecurity is a Problem. Community Action Programs Offer Solutions.

Economic insecurity is a daily struggle for millions of Americans, including here in Massachusetts.  Wages for working people have barely risen in 20 years, while incomes of the top 1% have tripled. And housing, food, and utility costs keep climbing. One result of that income inequality is that today millions of adults in the U.S. say they couldn’t pay an unexpected bill of $400 or more.

The Commonwealth found itself at a crossroads in 2020 with a spotlight shining on inequities.  Covid-19 and the economic downturn hit the families with fewer available resources the hardest.

Community Action Agencies play a critical role by helping individuals and families with basic necessities that we all need to lead safe, healthy, and productive lives.  Community Action Agencies provide programs and advocate for polices that center on equity.

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40% of Americans are one emergency expense away from a financial crisis.
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Graph - Annual Growth in Household Income by Income Group (Massachusetts)

Inequality Surges in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a prosperous state; yet we find great inequality.  For most, wages have barely grown over last 40+ years while incomes for the top 1% are more than four times what they were in 1980, even when adjusted for inflation.

In Massachusetts, 22% of the population is poor or near poor (100-to-200% of the poverty rate).  In some communities, it is as high as 40-50% of the population.

Digging Deeper: We Find Substantial Racial Inequity in Wage Growth

Over the past four decades, median wages for Black and Latinx workers have barely budged, especially when compared to median wages for white workers.

One in ten MA households are food insecure

As Many 1 in 6 Massachusetts Households are “Food Insecure”

Being food insecure means that you don’t know where your next meal will come from…or when it will come.  It’s hard to concentrate at school or at work when you’re so hungry you get light-headed.

This number has been on the rise again in 2022.  See the trend.

For households with children, the number is even greater.  Federal benefits made a significant difference in fighting hunger during the pandemic, but the numbers are trending back up as now some benefits came to an end.  See the trend.

Overall, about 1 in 4 households with children report not having enough to eat. Digging deeper: The racial inequities become apparent.  As many as 1 in 3 Black/Latinx households with children are food insecure in Massachusetts.

1 in 6 Households Lost Employment Income

1 in 6 households with children lost employment income since Spring 2021.

Digging Deeper: In communities with fewer resources and a higher percentage of people of color and people who are poor or near poor, we see higher unemployment rates.  More than 1 in 4 Black/Latinx households with children lost employment income since Spring 2021

Community Action Solutions Work

The 23 Community Action Agencies (CAA) in Massachusetts provide people and families statewide with resources and programs that create opportunities, enhance economic stability and mobility, and fight poverty.

When funded and administered properly, public assistance programs really do work.

Federal COVID Relief Has Shown How to Cut Child Poverty in Half

Targeted tax credits and public benefit programs had an immediate impact on household economic wellbeing during 2020-21 – showing a path to cutting child poverty in half.

Community Action Agencies help you access these programs including free tax preparation to access to tax credits including expanded Child Tax Credit and supplemental payments, energy assistance, SNAP and food resources, and more.

Public programs cut child poverty in half in MA

Public Programs Keep MA Residents out of Poverty

In Massachusetts, public programs keep 920,000 out of poverty each year, including 200,000 children. This is according to Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). That means these programs essentially cut poverty in half.

 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program keeps 140,000 MA residents out of poverty

Community Action Agencies Keep Food on the Table

In 2021, Community Action Agencies provided food to more than 300,000 MA residents.  Community Action Agencies also help with access to SNAP, which has helped close to 1 million people in Massachusetts.

Community Action Agencies play a crucial role in bringing nutritious food “the last mile” by working with food banks and local food pantries, local restaurants, grocery stores, farmers.  Many Community Action Agencies operate their own food pantries, mobile food pantries, and other food delivery programs.

Mother and Daughter

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) Help

The EITC and the CTC help working class families that have one or more children.  The EITC was expanded to include workers without children.  According to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Colombia University, “On its own, the Child Tax Credit reduced monthly child poverty by close to 30 percent.Click here for more.

In Massachusetts, about four out of five (over 1,000,000) children benefited from ARPA’s expansion of the child tax credits with as many as 55,000 of these children brought out of poverty.

Community Action Agencies run Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites helping residents to access all applicable tax credits and plan for the future.

Learn More Today

#CommunityActionWorks

MASSCAP and our 23 Community Action Agency partners have the socio-economic data, more than 100 integrated programs and services, and decades of experience in fighting poverty in Massachusetts by helping residents help themselves and flourish.

Whether you and your family need help, you wish to volunteer in your community, or you are a corporate and legislative decision-maker who needs guidance on how to fight poverty, start by downloading our detailed report, At a Crossroads Created by COVID: Families Moving Along the Road to Opportunity in Massachusetts. Or contact us today to discuss how we can help.

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Download At A Crossroads Created by COVID: Families Moving Along the Road to Opportunity in Massachusetts.

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