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. U.S. for US now!

    You can thank our Legislators and CEOs who with NAFTA and Offshoring have screwed the middle class.
    You want immediate income, jobs and economy turnaround?
    Change the IRS tax code to abolish Corporate Income Tax deductions for jobs outside the U.S
    Establish wage loss of 'Offshore Penalties' for jobs which can be done here by U.S. citizens.
    Require payment into Social Security and Medicare taxes at the U.S. prevailing wage for the skill for workers when they work outside the U.S. and the job could be performed here.
    Forget about this dog and pony show of tax breaks for small businesses and the Bush Tax cuts the scheme of things they are meaningless except for a bunch of non-pragmatic people stuck in ideologies.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steller1

    It is really time that people who cannot afford children stop breeding. This is the issue with this planet and why people are having issues. If they didn't have kids they could find a nice small apartment to ride out this recession.

    It is time people take responsibility and stop breeding. It is killing the planet and draining resources.

    I think americans are going to have a real wake up call. We should get used to living in burned out bldgs and hitting the bread lines.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rodney

      you appear to be a butt hole...

      September 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      Thank you, Jonathan Swift.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan Beach

    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)

    September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Love how you people blame Bush for the deficit but you're copmletely silent about the fact that Obama has tripled it. you are dishonest.

      September 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Actually an 8% reduction from this time last year get ..your facts straight

      September 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mindy

    I've enjoyed reading the many posts, those that have shown no compassion for those @ poverty level or below, or who simply have become unemployed, have never been on this side of the fence. My husband lost his job over a year ago, and I lost mine 4 months ago. He qualified for unemployment but I did not, thanks to my employer lying, we live on less than $1200. a month, coming from an income of over 100,000. We qualify for no assistance. It is not an easy adjustment. We have sold much of our belongings, heirlooms and etc. to get by, plus 401K and our savings. We have one son remaining, our oldest son was murdered 2 years ago trying to save another's life. Our expenses our low, no car payments, just basic living expenses. (no cell phones, or extra "things" this world entices us with.) Anyway, the reason I wanted to make a post.......what angers me the most, is when I read that the White House is spending $365 million to update it!!! WOW!!!! Must be nice to take our hard earned money and spend it on something that does NOT need done. Michelle Obama already spent a boatload redoing the Oval Office. Plus when I read about all the BILLIONS going overseas to help other countries, which I am all for.....but not until our own country has taken care of it's own. Or a sports player getting a $43 million 4 year contract, sorry nobody is worth that kind of money. It is just utterly ridiculous. My prayers are with all those that are struggling, as I know how they feel. My trust is in the Lord, knowing He will supply all our needs, I know this country and our government will not as they are all self centered!! God Bless

    September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      The updates to the White House are for repairs. The West Wing has frequent power failures due to antiquated wiring and power sources. Considering the purpose of this facility, losing power on a regular basis seams like a serious enough issue to warrant fixing and it's major project to do so.

      It's not like they're just redecorating.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Someone in Columbus

    Folks – Seriously, before we bash everyone into obvilion over this – has anyone actually thought about how much it takes to live these days?

    Think about it – let's assume the person has a car – you have gas at 3.00 a gallon plus insurance that will probably run 600 to a 1K per year. No car – sure, take mass transit – if it's available and it runs past your place of work at hours that works for you. And we won't talk about repairs.

    Housing – Even a one bedroom will run you about 500 a month, if you don't mind living in some rat infested area.

    Medical – Private insurance will run about 600 – 700 a month for a family of four I am guessing. Sure, you could keep going to the ER – but it's just that, an ER and not a subsitute for regular doctors.

    Utilities – How much we looking there for gas and electric? 50 – 100 a month? If you're in an area with extremely hot summers or cold winters – good luck!

    Clothes for the kids and yourself? Shoes? Remember, you have to go on interviews – better look reasonable. Ditto grooming.

    It adds up fast folks – it adds up. 21K even with all the supplements adds up to a whole lotta of nothing real quickly.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tracie

    As a single mom who was laid off over 18 months ago (During Bush's Reign) I can tell you life is hard. I went from OK financially to scraping to feed my girls. I am so sick of the hate. I work 3 part time jobs and go to school full time. I have sold everything but the broken down roof over are heads to pay for school and just the basic things we need. I am not lazy, I paid taxes for years, and do not do drugs or drink. I am probably not going to be able to finish my Education degree strictly because I have nothing left to sell. We wear thrift store cloths, rarely get three meals a day and yet my 16,000 a year is not enough to qualifyu for benefits. I am one of the forgotten Americans no one seems to care about. My first post never appeared so am trying again. Please look around your neighborhoods maybe their is someone like me who could use your help even if it is just having the lawn mowed I know my mower broke down and cannot afford a replacement or to have someone do it for us. I am tired and often feel like giving up. I have done the best I can with life and it seems to never be enough.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chase

    This article opened a can of worms..or more so an ocean of worms. So many people can relate to the everyday struggle of poverty.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Yeah..over a quarter of the population and rising if you use real numbers

      September 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The_Dude

    Dude 21k a year is poor how can anyone afford an iphone data plan and pay section 8 rent on 21k a year? How do they expect me to buy a brand new car and pay rent and keep my iphone?

    September 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Public transportation...New Yorkers understand this...

      September 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MyrtleMae, Frederick, MD

    When people claim hardship, I first ask if they have cable or satellite television? If so $100 a month in my area. Cancel it. Do they smoke or drink? I don't do either so I don't know what it costs but, stop it. Do you have a cell phone? That's at least $50 a month. Cancel it. Help yourself before you ask others for help. If they really try and still need help, okay. But, it should be temporary help. Not permanent welfare, not permanent food stamps, and not permanent public housing.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Hungry f~ck it don't eat need medicine don't buy it, you'll live, just learn to be grateful for what you have not what you don't

      September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dan Beach

    Current Deficits and Rising Debt Were Caused by the Financial Crisis.
    Overwhelmingly, the present deficits are caused by the financial crisis. The financial crisis, the fall in asset (especially housing) values, and withdrawal of bank lending to business and households has meant a sharp decline in economic activity, and therefore a sharp decrease in tax revenues and an increase in automatic payments for unemployment insurance and the like. According to a new IMF staff analysis, fully half of the large increase in budget deficits in major economies around the world is due to collapsing tax revenues, and a further large share to low (often negative) growth in relation to interest payments on existing debt. Less than ten percent is due to increased discretionary public expenditure, as in stimulus packages.
    This point is important because it shows that the claim that deficits have resulted from "overspending" is false, both in the United States and abroad.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Outtahere

    My mortgage too is worth more than my house. BUT as a 100% service connected disabled vet with 24 years, I'm selling everything in my house (nailed down or not), mail the house to the mortgage company, and headin to Costa Rica and join my fellow retired comrade-vets with my monthly pension and live like a king. I'll be back in about 10+ years where my credit should be able to start from scratch. Buy a bigger house at half the price upon my return. Self-imposed exile you say? not living like a KING down there....if you've been to Costa Rica, you know what I'm talking about..wish me luck! ADIOS!

    September 16, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      You are envied..thank you for you service if your pension allows you to do this go man you have earned it!

      September 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. duke

    This is the "Land of the Rich and the home of the scared" After all The police are only there to be a bumper between the rich and the poor in this country(A modern daygustapo).It's the Rich who are profiting from the wars and it's the Rich who are controlling the political environment (Tea-Party=corporate funds)But what is most funniest is the Rich have something not even money can buy,They have POOR misguided POOR People who are defending them(the rich).WAKE UP PEOPLE.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      So you think the Tea Bags realize they are being funded by big oil..and during the Gulf spill was it not them crying out for more government intervention...Obama is not doing enough...wonder how many of them volunteered and jumped on a bus to go clean up tar balls how many are there now??

      September 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      They get nifty T-Shirts with slogans and pre-printed signs that are designed to look homemade(where do they think this material comes from) too bad “Tea Bags" can't distinguish the difference between symbolism and content… televangelist's live well off of them...with catchy slogans like "Don't Tread on Me"… BIN LADEN could use the same bumper stickers and get the "Tea Bag' vote…

      September 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Some time ago ,some one decided that Canada,the US and Mexico have to be on a level playing field!That means the standard of living in the US and Canada will lower while Mexico's increases and we all meet in the middle-and live happily ever after,and then -WHAM- the bottom fell out of the economies and now all the Haves must get thier share first and everything else will just trickly down to the little people-WELCOME TO AMERICA!
    Big government or Corporate America Choose the one you want.
    Heck, I would love to see a politician who actually -CARES- about the people who put them in office instead of following the money.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul A.

    Welcome to the death of the American Empire! Ever wonder why the United States is not mentioned in the Bible? Perhaps because it will not be there.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jan

    1988, a year of "Reaganomics". I was pregnant with my only child. My husband's income had gone straight down, sales were very poor. I had complications from my pregnancy, had to quit my job. $500 per month Mortgage was unpaid and we were behind. My husband was making $90 a week. Couldn't pay much with that, $90 doesn't buy food. Tried to get WIC. They said we made too much money! How is that possible? We lost the house and had to move into the most sub-standard hole you can imagine. No help from any agency.
    Things have not changed. Poverty line is real. Yes there are abuses in the system. Because there are abuses, does that mean you are not help anyone? I have afriend on disability. Cannot work for severe physical & mental problems. This person pays the rent for $500. $90 food stamps. Pays $13 for harsh psychotropic drugs. Disability check is $798. No cost of living in 2 years. The vast majority of Americans must think my friend is living pretty well. They keep subtracting benefits all of the time. Utilities must be paid as well from the lavish monthly check. No money left to wash clothes or to buy supplies. No transportation. Not enough left over to ride the bus. Where does it end? We bailed out the banks with no accountability, Wallstreet with no accountability. But Main street America has to LEARN their lessons and pay their bills. Get that job for $6 an hour. Stay off the welfare roles. College graduates are not finding jobs in their fields. They have to pay back their loans! Corporations/Repbulicans view the majority of us Americans as "DISPOSABLE CONTAINERS". When you are "disposable" there isn't real incentive for Corporations/Repbulicans to change and start helping Americans instead of hurting and abusing them.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Like I stated earlier the real percentage is more likely double the 14% reported...that is a lot of people and we will start hearing more from then soon..the Tea Baggers can only deceive so many people

      September 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
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