Myth: If you’re not officially poor, you’re doing okay
If you’ve ever experienced living paycheck-to-paycheck, you likely understand the extreme stress and pressure of limited finances. For most Americans, living paycheck-to-paycheck is a temporary state. But for millions, living in or on the verge of poverty is a life-long struggle.
Teetering on the edge of poverty can be just as stressful as directly living in poverty. For most, the push into poverty can be as little as one $400 unexpected expense. The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly a family can fall into financial distress.
Government safeguards like SNAP benefits are important. Once a family falls into poverty, it takes years to escape. Safety net programs can keep families out of poverty and help them recover quickly.
Unfortunately, because of the social shame surrounding poverty, thousands of families live at or below the poverty line. but don’t acknowledge it. Some realize that they live in poverty but are afraid to ask for help. Struggling financially may be a normal part of life, but it shouldn’t last for years. There should be no shame in being poor and wanting to become financially stable. That’s the essence of the American dream.
Poverty can befall anyone. It can come after an accident or chronic illness. It can follow a natural disaster or pandemic. It can be a job loss or the loss of a loved one. Poverty is the result of external factors, not individual failure. Given a chance to succeed, people will. No one wants to live in or on the verge of poverty.