NJ Poverty Levels May Not Be Decreasing as Census Reports
Melville D. Miller, President, Legal Services of NJ, shares why he believes the U.S. Census Bureau’s decrease in poverty in the state is not accurate. Miller also explains why defunding the Legal Services Corporation would not only be “detrimental” to NJ but others across the country.
"Welcome to State of Affairs. I'm Steve Adubato. Coming to you from the Agnes Varis NJTV Studio here in Newark, New Jersey. It is our pleasure to welcome back again, we wish you were not even here to talk about this, but we have to. It is the state of affairs of poverty in the state with Melville D. Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey. D, good to see you buddy. Great to see you and be back with you. What is the state of affairs when we are talking about poverty in New Jersey and in America? Specifically in New Jersey, and in America to a somewhat lesser extent, we're at record... 50 year record high levels - rates - of poverty. This was a spike that was a result of the Great Recession. It began in 2007, and although that spike has now leveled off, it really has not gone down in any statistically significant way yet. And there are underlying reasons for that around the possibilities, or lack thereof, of employment that give cause for great concern. See, but D, you know, people watching could be asking themselves... I was asking myself when I saw these numbers, "Wait a minute? If, in fact, the unemployment rate in New Jersey, and in the country, continues to go down, how could the poverty rate be going up?" Unfortunately, the unemployment rate does not fully count those people who are not working. It sounds a little bit of a paradox, but it's a well known fact that it only counts people who have worked within a certain period of time, basically half a year, and it also doesn't count the people who have given up and just decided that... What do you mean it doesn't count them? It literally doesn't... it runs off of data generated by unemployment insurance for the most part. And the eligibility levels... rules for that constrain what the definition is. So they just don't look at 'em. They just don't count 'em. There's no effective way for government to count them. So we're doing this program in early March. President Trump addressed Congress. As I'm watching his speech, I'm looking for signs as to what his priorities are. What is your sense as to the Trump Administration's priorities? Initiatives? As it relates to those dealing with poverty? It's hard to... I'm in no position to say what the administration thinks or intends, but from what we see, there's not a focus yet at all on poverty. What would it look like? The... what they have talked about is the need to create jobs. And we have yet... Well that's positive..."