At his Patchogue nonprofit, Adrian Fassett spends his time offering job training, child care and counseling to people in danger of foreclosure.
But Fassett, who is chief executive of the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, said the federal income guidelines that he must use to determine who he can help simply don't cover the reality of poverty on Long Island.
"Since the financial downturn, we have seen a lot of two-worker families where one worker might lose their job and they are in serious need of assistance, but the remaining working spouse might be making $70,000-80,000," Fassett said. "A lot of these individuals need help, but we can't help them."
Nonprofits and other agencies that help the poor have long said the federal poverty guidelines are too low, especially in areas with a high cost of living such as Long Island.
A new report, completed last month by anti-poverty advocates, argues that the federal guidelines should be updated to reflect the cost of living in different areas of the state.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York State 2010 found that Long Island is just behind lower Manhattan as the state's costliest place to live. It said families must make many times the poverty level just to meet bare-minimum needs.
"This report shows us that rich is relative," Israel said. He pushed his "tax equity" plan, which would require the IRS take into account the cost of living in a region when setting the tax rate.However, Martin Cantor, director of Dowling College's Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute, said it's unlikely that the guidelines will ever change.