More than 300,000 people on Long Island don’t know how they’ll get their next meal. Of them, 87,000 are children, according to Long Island Cares.
Consider this: Long Island’s official poverty rate is at its highest level since 1959: 6.7 percent of Long Islanders, or 185,415 residents, fall below the federal poverty line, according to a study by the Long Island Association. Suffolk County is in worse shape than Nassau. Overall, female single-parent households have a poverty rate just above 20 percent.
Those figures are tragic — and artificially low. The federal poverty level threshold stands at $24,250 for a family of four, but that doesn’t take into account this region’s high cost of living. With such an adjustment, the LIA determined, the line for those at the poverty level would be drawn at $31,282 for a family of four. And another 56,000 people would be considered poor.
It’s important to start there. If the federal government adjusted its poverty levels to account for cost of living, more people would qualify for helpful federal programs and services.
But Long Island Cares chief executive Paule Pachter says a realistic portrayal of poverty here would put the income level at around $50,000. Even then, it’s hard to make ends meet. So, while changing federal guidelines and improving the reach of programs is part of the answer, the real solution lies in lifting people out of poverty. That requires seeing the region’s economy through a wider lens, to create a diversity of jobs and train a work force that is prepared to take them.
Long Island’s overall affluence has cast a shadow over the poverty in our midst for too long. It’s time to acknowledge it, and together find ways to combat it.— The editorial board