Living at the Poverty Line

Published 13 Dec 2016


This paper is an example of a budget for a family at the poverty line. The writer puts himself on the position of the provider of this family, aiming to determine how it is like to prepare a budget with a very small income. The paper also aims to determine what the government agencies can do for the families at and below the poverty line to help them meet their needs.

Budget Construction

Below is a monthly budget constructed by a single mother living in Hamilton, Florida who earns an average of $19,900 annually (less the income tax) or $1,658 a month. She has 3 children: a 6-month old, a 1-year old and a 2-year old. Because she is only a single mother, she has the sole responsibility of providing her children’s needs. Below are the components of her monthly budget:

Rent (one- bedroom apartment) $674

Food 561

Utilities 140

Personal Care Products 100

Diapers 60

Infant Formula 60

Milk for 2 & 3 years old children 53

Childcare (for 3 children) 114

Clothing 50

Public Transportation 40

Miscellaneous 45

TOTAL $1897

Her$1658-a-month income is not sufficient to provide all the basic needs of her family despite the fact that this budget is very tight and excludes other expenses included in the budget of an average-earning family such as expenses for entertainment and leisure, food away from home such as expenses for dining in a restaurant, vacation and savings. The mother is also looking forward to have some money saved for the education of her children in the coming years but cannot do this because her income is about $240 short with her expenditures. Due to her very low income, she has to seek the help and assistance of some government agencies in her area that can help single mothers like her.

Poverty in Florida

The single mother mentioned above is just one of the many individuals and family suffering from poverty in the USA particularly in Florida. According to the Census Bureau (Cauchon, 2006), about 37 million Americans lived in poverty in 2005 which can be characterized by having an annual income of $19,971 or less for a family of four. This means the single mother in the above context is at the poverty line. In Florida, poverty rate is higher than the average for the US (Nissen and Borum, 2005) due to low wages given to the workers especially the women.

It was also reported that when a family spend more than 30% of its income for the housing cost, that household can be said to be “cost burdened” or simply cannot afford the housing needs. In the case of the mother, her monthly rent which exceeded 30% of her income seems to be a big burden for her despite that the monthly fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $674 (Nissen and Borum, 2005) and even if he opted for a zero-bedroom apartment which amounts to $604, it will still exceed 30% of her monthly income.

Moreover, according to the joint report of the US Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2004, the average annual expenditure on food of a consumer unit with about 2 persons is $5781 or $481.75 a month (about $241 per person). But that was in 2004 so it is expected that by 2006, this average has increased significantly. The budget for food expenditure of the single mother, which $561 for four persons, seems to be not adequate to provide the family healthy and nutritious foods. It cannot be denied that the family of the single mother is suffering from poverty that her income alone cannot meet the needs of her children.

Government Assistance

One of the programs that provide assistance to families in Florida suffering from poverty is the WIC or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, which means that the program provides assistance particularly to the WIC sector. Women, infant and children are considered to be the weakest sector thus programs like this are very important to them. The WIC program in Florida is administered by the Department of Health and is being funded by the US Department of Agriculture. It provides healthy foods, nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support and referrals to health care, immunization, and community services to pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants and children under 5 years old (Florida DOH, 2006).

To be able to be eligible to the program, a household with a size of four must have a monthly income of equal to or less than $3,084 (Florida DOH, 2006). Upon eligibility and completion of requirements, parents can request for formula for their infants and avail of WIC checks that can be used to purchase foods such as cereals, milk, vegetables and juices, and health products or medicines that are listed on the WIC checks. WIC checks can be used at WIC-approved stores across Florida. Because WIC checks can only be used on WIC-approved items, it can be ensured that the WIC checks holder can only purchase nutritious foods and the necessary items needed by children and mothers.

Aside from WIC, another program created for the benefits of the poor family is the Food Stamp Program. The program helps low income individuals and families buy the food they need for good health and is intended to supplement a family’s food budget (Florida DCF, 2006). To be eligible, the family should be a US resident and residing in Florida. The household should also have a net monthly income not exceeding $1667 for a household size of four. For a household of 4 members, $139 is subtracted from the income in the budget to determine the amount of food stamps that will be given for a month (Florida DCF, 2006). Other programs that assist poor families are the Temporary Cash Assistance Program (TCA) that provides cash assistance to meet the needs of the family other than food such as education and others, and the Medicaid that provides medical coverage to low income families.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Because of low wages, a single mother as well as the families whose income equal or less that $19,900 or those at the poverty line cannot provide all the needs of their family especially when there are growing children in the household that needed to have nutritious food and shelter. To be able to solve income insufficiencies, poor family especially those who have children under 5 years old can avail of the assistance provided by the programs of the local government of the state. Through the programs that assist poor families, poverty can be alleviated and children can have a brighter future. In the case of the single mother above, she seems to be eligible to the above-mentioned programs. These programs will help her meet the needs of her children and can help her save some amount for her children’s education in the coming years.


  • Cauchon, Dennis (2006) Family Income Up, But Not Pay, USA Today Online Retrieved on September 18, 2006
  • Florida Department of Children and Families, Health and Human Services retrieved Online on September 18, 2006
  • Nissen, Bruce & Borum, Jen Wolfe (2005), Working Poverty: Low Wage Workers in Florida, Research Institute on Social Economics Policy (RISEP) CLR&S, Florida International University, University Park, Miami, Florida
  • US Department of Labor & US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Consumers Expenditures in 2004, retrieved online on September 18, 2006 <>
  • The Florida Department of Health, Florida WIC retrieved online on September 18, 2006
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