Trump administration considers changes to how poverty is measured, raises local concern

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Trump administration is proposing changes to the way the government measures poverty.

It’s a move that could potentially strip thousands of Nebraskans of federal benefits.

Rita Taylor relies on food stamps to feed her two boys.

"You only get 10 cans of milk with WIC... 10 cans of milk for most babies, seeing the way babies eat, that doesn't last very long,” Taylor said. “So you have to use food stamps to buy more milk and buying more milk means taking more food off the table."

Proposed changes to the way the poverty level is calculated could eventually cut people like Taylor off of food stamps and other federal benefits, like Medicaid.

It would no longer consider them to be poor; something Taylor is already running up against.

"You go down to a place for help and you're judged by, 'Oh you make too much,’ and a lot of the time rent and costs and transportation is not taken into consideration," Taylor said.

For those who think changes to the way the government calculates the poverty threshold is a good idea, they say now is the time to do it.

"If you look at the employment situation now in Omaha, it's a great employment situation if you're looking for a job and employers are begging people to take these jobs,” Doug Kagan, President of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom said.

But Taylor explains, it’s not that simple. Low-income people can face barriers.

"Somebody saying, 'Oh you make too much, you don't qualify for daycare.' Well, who do I leave my kid with when I go to work? Some people don't have family, some people don't have friends," she said.

Taylor’s caseworker at Together Inc. works with low-income people across the city. She believes fewer people qualifying for federal benefits would be devastating.

“It's make or break for a lot of families,” Rachel Kingfisher said. “That's the difference between being stable in their own home, like we see here, or in a shelter."

According to the latest statistics, about 12 percent of people living in the Metro are living below the federal poverty level. For a household of four, that’s an income of about $25,750 per year.

The federal government is asking for public input on the poverty calculation. They’re taking comments until June 21.