September 16th, 2010
10:41 AM ET

A family's first time at the poverty line

"Maria, " who was too embarrassed to give her true name, sits with one of her sons as she finds herself living below the poverty threshold.

The Census Bureau has released its annual poverty report showing more people are living at or below the poverty threshold. This means many are finding themselves there for the first time.

“Maria,” who was too embarrassed to give us her true name or allow us to photograph her face, says she and her husband have had to sell their most cherished possessions.

“We sold our wedding rings, our furniture, everything,” said Maria.

Trying to get help from government agencies is presenting problems too she said because their house, the mortgage for which is more than the its value, is considered an asset. She has two sons, the younger one suffers from Autism. During the interview she begins to break down and her older son, only 12-years-old, has to take on the very adult role as comforter.

CNN’s Jim Roope says it’s one of the hardest interviews he’s had to do. Filled with emotion and sometimes despair, but “Maria” does have hope.

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Filed under: Economy
soundoff (616 Responses)
  1. Analogkid


    A quick search yielded $10,000,000 of charitable givings by the Clinton's in 2007 which was about 10% of their income that year. Oprah has numerous foundations iwhich she started or in which she is active that deal with givings well into the millions of dollars. So it appears that they are doing something although you could argue that they could do more I suppose..

    September 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • timtom

      Is is still charitable as a tax write-off?

      September 17, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    I haven't had to look for a new job for a long time I am glad to say. Not being critical but is it really that hard to find a job that pays more than 21K? I mean even delivering pizza makes more than that.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      "I mean even delivering pizza makes more than that."
      On what planet?

      September 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      uhm... I have a friend who's a pizza delivery guy and he makes $35-40K a year, depending on tips.

      September 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kurt Parkins

    People, material minimalism is the answer.Live way below your means.I live in an old mobile home on one half acre.Everything I own has been paid for a long time ago. Live with a third world mentality. Do not wait until you are unemployed. Make your own entertainment.No paid television. Plant a huge garden. Befriend your neighbors and get to know them. Fix things yourself.Get out of the central cities.Have just one credit card for emergencies. Drive an old car. My yearly taxes are only $160 dollars a year! The third world is coming to America.Quit whining, and learn to adapt.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Sound like it is already here...I like take on it is pretty simple if you don't make more than 21K as a single adult you cant' afford a car so don't public transportation is fine try the dollar menu use public Wi Fi every now and then count the cash in your wallet because you will have some... even city folk can go third world...more out there than you think...get over the status image mentality

      September 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • BC

      While your theory does make sense, on the other hand living the "materially minimalistic" way as you described, doesn't account for the cost of medical care particularly for people with chronic health conditions (particularly those that are not preventable or curable and only manageable with costly medications and specialists).... Just a side that I think needs to be covered...

      September 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Laura

    @Marie, @Jim Roope. Apologies if this has been said, or if you are already doing what I'm going to suggest: I hope your child with Autism is receiving SSI from Social Security (should help you get about $450). I did not think they counted the house or the car to determine eligibility. Then you automatically qualify for Medicaid(priceless!). Then that should help you apply for other benefits from your state. Find a local support group for parents of kids with Autism. Financial instability is common among families with disabled kids, and other parents have traveled this road too, and can help you navigate the system.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Good advice unless you are voting Republican if so after November you are on your own....maybe for the price of forced indoctrination a church will help you out..good luck

      September 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Interested

    Chris - I don't think you understood that the $21K was for a family of four–that works out to $10/hr. Even without taxes - which are taken out if only social security– that comes to $1750 per month. Feeding a family of four costs about $600 and that doesn't include toilet paper or laundry soap, diapers, jock straps, and tampons etc.. So let's leave them $1000 per month. Out of that they have to pay for doctor bills –kids are always sick - band aids, school supplies etc. - oh wait, I forgot about a mortgage or rent and utilities. And gas to get to work - that's another expense and insurance – car insurance is required. Let's face it, these people are not sitting in the lap of luxury. If they have cable tv it's their only entertainment and they probably need it. And by the way one would hope and expect poverty level in the US is better than in Ethiopia. You might want to share your income to see how you compare.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. realist

    The government can not support the poor because we are spending all of our resources on illegal immigrants, who do not contribute to the tax income at all, but continue to use our resources.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Back up is the WARS

      September 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      Thank you, Dan.

      September 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. realist

    And I guess every college student is basically in povery....21k is not hard to live with.

    September 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. timd

    You are never poor as long as you have Jesus, tequila, and a revolver.

    September 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach


      September 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      Duke! Hunter S. Thompson lives! 😉

      September 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      Good one!

      September 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sussay

    Bye bye middle class.

    September 16, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Yea, it's been gone...bye bye thanks Bush Cheney..some facts....Under Bush-Cheney we experienced the weakest post-recession job creation cycle since the Great Depression, record deficits, record household debt, a record bankruptcy rate and a substantial increase in poverty. We have gone from being the nation with the biggest budget surplus in history to becoming the nation with the largest deficit in history.(Tea Bags don’t like to be reminded of this….it of course they say another socialist lie)
      What is downright frightening is that “Tea Bags” seem to still believe an unregulated free market will solve America’s economic problems…we all know how that turned out…

      Under the Republicans economic policies the consequences were staggering debt, industrial decline, shrinking wages, four painful recessions, increased poverty and structural unemployment. The reckless Reagan-Bush-Bush spending and borrowing has brought us to the brink of social catastrophe and economic depression… What is downright frightening is that “Tea Bags” seem to still believe an unregulated free market will solve America’s economic problems…we all know how that turned out…

      September 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. just a dumb US taxpayer

    The Oprah bic##h sent her money to Africa for schools
    She could not find any kids here in the US who needed anything

    September 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      I think is worse that she sent the whole audience to Australia! In these times, better to help people like Maria.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RobRoy

    Ronald Ray-Gun started NAFTA George Bush Senior signed it into law. Thank you republicans. You have sent all of our jobs out of America to China and India and Mexico and now we face rising poverty Gee I wonder if there is a connection. Then comes Geroge Junior and he totally backrupts America not to mention Killing, Torture, War Crimes and Moral decline in America while he raises the price of Gas to $3.00 from $1.00 so he and his oil buddies can stael more from America and it people, we need more Republicans like this. Yep we sure do on the Chain Gang in Prison where they belong. Put the entire Bush clan in prison they are nothing but leechs feeding on America and its people for four generations. America can't afford thieves like this running a gas station let alone the country. Just remember how we got into this mess when election time comes remember the bush's and ray-guns of the republican party and remember what we don't need is another one of this type of person running anything and most of all don't be dumg enough to vote for a republican not mattter how good thier lies sound, a lie is a lie.

    September 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dcrosby

    Obama has spent more money in 18 months than any other president in history. In fact if you take every other president and add together what they spent it would be less than Obama has spent. Obamaa care is going to affect us all. Most companies will opt out and pay the fine as it would be cheaper to pay the fine than provide healthcare. Why should they offer healthcare to their employees if the government will provide it. Why can't all americans have the same healthcare as members of congress?

    September 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      Your assertions about spending under the current administration are simply not true. Check your facts – or at least stop taking everything they say on Fox News as if it was gospel.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      No kidding! This is pure BS. Anyone remember the $700 billion that Bush threw at the banks right before he left office? It's gone!

      September 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NFLJediMaster

    "markglicken, they are in the same place as the catholic church. Hoarding their money and helping no one."
    What a laugh!!!! Catholics are about the most sharing and generous group of people there are. Tens of thousands of children around the world are helped each day by the donations of Catholics. About the only other religion that is more generous is the one that sends money to those "radicals" and "terrorists".

    September 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      I have no love for the Catholic Church, but Catholics are very giving and generous with their time and money when it comes to helping people out.

      September 16, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ann

    As a single mother of 3 I would LOVE to ATLEAST make 21k a year, to me that's a million dollars.....sad huh?

    September 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • keith

      Can you cook?

      September 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hellothere

    people. did u 4get? Bush started all this & yes i'm for obama, but do i think his decision 2 bail-out big buisness was right, No! big buisnesses should fail just like all the small businesses do. we forget those big businesses were once small too? no buisness should be helped by the government. you sink or swim. that's how it's always been here in america. i can't believe the poverty line is 21k either, & that's probably before tax too. i bet if the government would stop taking more then a 1/4 of peoples check it wouldn't be so bad. my family makes 50k a year but pay 25% in taxes & almost 9% in sales tax.. talk about abusing thier power. it won't be long before 50% of our money goes 2the government. we're almost there. & why? i'm not seeing any changes where it needs 2be. & what about all these millionares? it's not right for someone 2make 20 mil or more a year. if they can't live off even 10 mil a year, then what has this world come too? they don't pay for anything anymore & get so many tax breaks, ya that's fair. how about taxing them 75% for every doller over 10 mil. bet the USA would be out of debt real fast. but nope inpower the rich & screw the poor! we need someone like Robin Hood back in this country.. stealing from the rich & giving 2the poor. the government has made it so difficult to get assistance when needed that only the ones who get it r the ones that abuse it. i can't believe we now have generation welfare abusers. easy 4them but hard 4the ones that really need it. drug tests, a year limit, @ a signed waver saying no childern will be added while on it should be needed 2aquire assitance these days. sad 2say it but that's what the USA has come2. we need 2stop accepting illegals babies delivered in the states as our own as well. let them give birth & then a free ride back over the border. because that's screwing this nation as well. this nation isn't a nation of freedom anymore. it's a nation of abuse, greed, fraud, & do we say. hope for change but it'll never happen.the government should be ashamed.

    September 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Under the Republicans economic policies the consequences were staggering debt, industrial decline, shrinking wages, four painful recessions, increased poverty and structural unemployment. The reckless Reagan-Bush-Bush spending and borrowing has brought us to the brink of social catastrophe and economic depression… What is downright frightening is that “Tea Bags” seem to still believe an unregulated free market will solve America’s economic problems…we all know how that turned out…

      September 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
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