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Democracy

Single mom perfectly explains to Congress why the U.S. poverty line needs a total rehaul

"I'm not asking you to apologize for your privilege but I'm asking you to see past it."

Single mom perfectly explains to Congress why the U.S. poverty line needs a total rehaul
Photo by Ev on Unsplash

Nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty. That's more than one in ten Americans—and the percent is even higher for children.

If you're not up on the current numbers, the federal poverty line is $12,760 for an individuals and $26,200 for a family of four. If those annual incomes sound abysmally low, it's because they are. And incredibly, the Trump administration has proposed lowering the poverty line further, which would make more poor Americans ineligible for needed assistance.


However, debates over the poverty line don't even capture the full extent of Americans struggling to make ends meet. For many people, living above the poverty line is actually worse. These are the folks who make too much to qualify for aid programs but not enough to actually get by—a situation millions of working American families find themselves stuck in.

Amy Jo Hutchison is a single mother of two living in West Virginia, and a community organizer for West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families and Our Future West Virginia. She has also lived in poverty and been part of the working poor herself. In an impassioned speech, she spoke to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about what poverty really looks like for working families—and even called out Congress for being completely out of touch with what it takes for a family to live on while they're spending $40,000 a year on office furniture.

Watch Hutchison's testimony here (transcript included below):

Ms. Hutchison Testimony on Proposed Changes to the Poverty Line Calculation

"I'm here to help you better understand poverty because poverty is my lived experience. And I'm also here to acknowledge the biased beliefs that poor people are lazy and the poverty is their fault. But how do I make you understand things like working full-time for $10 an hour is only about $19,000 a year, even though it's well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour?

I want to tell you about a single mom I met who was working at a gas station. She was promoted to manager within 30 days. She had to report her new income the DHHR within 60 days. Her rent bumped from $475 to $950 a month, she lost her SNAP benefits and her family's health insurance, so she did what poor people are forced to do all the time. She resigned her promotion and went back to working part-time, just so she and her family could survive.

Another single mom I know encouraged her kids to get jobs. For her DHHR review she had to claim their income as well. She lost her SNAP benefits and her insurance, so she weaned herself off of her blood pressure medicines because she—working full-time in a bank and part-time at a shop on the weekends—couldn't afford to buy them. Eventually the girls quit their jobs because their part-time fast food income was literally killing their mother.

You see the thing is children aren't going to escape poverty as long as they're relying on a head of household who is poor. Poverty rolls off the backs of parents, right onto the shoulders of our children, despite how hard we try.

I can tell you about my own with food insecurity the nights I went to bed hungry so my kids could have seconds, and I was employed full time as a Head Start teacher. I can tell you about being above the poverty guideline, nursing my gallbladder with essential oils and prayer, chewing on cloves and eating ibuprofen like they're Tic Tacs because I don't have health insurance and I can't afford a dentist. I have two jobs and a bachelor's degree, and I struggle to make ends meet.

The federal poverty guidelines say that I'm not poor, but I cashed in a jar full of change the other night so my daughter could attend a high school band competition with her band. I can't go grocery shopping without a calculator. I had to decide which bills not to pay to be here in this room today. Believe me, I've pulled myself up by the bootstraps so many damn times that I've ripped them off.

The current poverty guidelines are ridiculously out of touch. The poverty line for a family of three is $21,720. Where I live, because of the oil and gas boom, a 3-bedroom home runs for $1,200 a month. So if I made $22,000 a year, which could disqualify me from assistance, I would have $8000 left to raise two children and myself on. And yet the poverty guidelines wouldn't classify me as poor.

I Googled 'congressman salary' the other day and according to Senate gov the salary for Senators representatives and delegates is $174,000 a year so a year of work for you is the equivalent of almost four years of work for me. I'm $24,000 above the federal poverty guidelines definition of poor. It would take nine people working full-time for a year at $10 an hour to match y'all's salary. I also read that each senator has authorized $40,000 dollars for state office furniture and furnishings, and this amount is increased each year to reflect inflation.

That $40,000 a year for furniture is $360 more than the federal poverty guidelines for a family of seven, and yet here I am begging you on behalf of the 15 million children living in poverty in the United States—on behalf of the one in three kids under the age of five and nearly 100,000 children in my state of West Virginia living in poverty—to not change anything about these federal poverty guidelines until you can make them relevant and reflect what poverty really looks like today.

You have a $40,000 dollar furniture allotment. West Virginia has a median income of $43,000 and some change. People are working full-time and are hungry. Kids are about to be kicked off the free and reduced lunch rolls because of changes y'all want to make to SNAP, even though 62 percent of West Virginia SNAP recipients are families with children—the very same children who cannot take a part-time job because their parents will die without insurance. People are working full-time in this country for very little money.


They're not poor enough to get help. They don't make enough to get by. They're working while their rationing their insulin and their skipping their meds because they can't afford food and healthcare at the same time.

So shame on you. Shame on you, and shame on me, and shame on each and every one of us who haven't rattled the windows of these buildings with cries of outrage at a government that thinks their office furniture is worthy of $40,000 a year and families and children aren't.

I'm not asking you to apologize for your privilege but I'm asking you to see past it. There are 46 million Americans living in poverty doing the best they know how with what they have and we, in defense of children and families, cannot accept anything less from our very own government."

In addition to Hutchison's testimony, a coalition of 26 patient organizations, including the American Cancer Society Action Network, American Heart Association, and United Way, wrote a joint letter opposing the proposed lowering of the poverty line, stating:

"The current Official Poverty Measure (OPM) is based on an old formula that already does not fully capture those living in poverty and does not accurately reflect basic household expenses for families, including by underestimating child care and housing expenses. The proposed changes to the inflation calculation would reduce the annual adjustments to the poverty measure and therefore may exacerbate existing weaknesses, putting vulnerable Americans – including those with serious and chronic diseases – at great risk. Further lowering the poverty line would also give policymakers and the public less credible information about the number and characteristics of Americans living in poverty."


This article originally appeared on 03.10.20

Education

Someone criticized a middle school teacher's behavior. Her comeback was an A+.

When a person commented, "your a teacher act like it," Amy Allen hilariously took the advice to heart.

A rude commenter got a lesson from Ms. Allen.

Being a teacher isn't easy. Teaching middle school students is especially not easy. Teaching middle school students who spent several of their formative years going through a global pandemic in the age of smartphones, social media and a youth mental health crisis is downright heroic.

If you haven't spent time in a middle school classroom, you may not fully grasp the intensity of it on every level, from the awkwardness to the body odor to the delightful hilarity that tweens bring to the table. When you connect with your students, it can be incredibly rewarding, and when you don't…well, we all read "Lord of the Flies," right?

Skilled teachers bring out the best in young people, and that can be done in many different ways. For Amy Allen, it's by making her middle school classroom a fun, welcoming place to learn and by bonding with her students.


"I love teaching middle schoolers because they are awkward, and I’m awkward, so we get along," Allen tells Upworthy.

She plays games with students, gets rambunctious with them and creates opportunities for them to expend some of that intense pre-and-early-teen energy in healthy ways. For instance, she shared a video of a game of "grudgeball," an active trivia game that makes reviewing for a quiz or test fun and competitive, and you can see how high-energy her classroom is:

@_queenoftheclassroom

If this looks like fun to you, pick up my grudgeball template (🔗 in bio) #qotc #grudgeball #10outof10recommend @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️

"I think for teachers, we always want to create moments for our students that are beyond the standard reading, writing, memorizing, quiz, 'traditional learning,'" Allen says. "Games are a great way to incorporate fun in the classroom."

Allen clearly enjoyed the game as much as her students—"I love the chaos!" she says— and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Fun keeps teachers sane, too. But one person took issue with her classroom behavior and commented, "your a teacher act like it." (Not my typo—that's exactly what the person wrote, only with no period.)

Allen addressed the comment in another video in the most perfect way possible—by acting exactly like a teacher.

Watch:

@_queenoftheclassroom

Replying to @كل الكلبات تريد مني Come see me if you have any further questions. #qotc #iteachmiddleschool #weDEFINITELYdonthavefuninhere @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ #Inverted

There are two solid ways to handle a rude comment without making things worse—you can ignore it or you can craft a response that makes the person look like a fool without being cruel or rude yourself. Allen's grammar lesson response was A+ work, right down to the "Come see me if you have any further questions" caption.

In fact, the person apparently went back and deleted their comment after the comeback video went viral, which makes it all the more hilarious. The video currently has more than 4 million views on TikTok and over 18 million views on YouTube.

"What’s funny is I left my correction on the board accidentally, and the next day, students asked me what that was all about," Allen says. "When I explained it, they thought it was cool because 'why would anyone go after Ms. Allen'? At that point, the video had maybe 10,000 views. I never imagined the video would go viral."

Two days later, as the video was creeping toward a million views, she upped the stakes. "Some of my students are my ultimate hype people, and they were tracking it harder than I was," she says. "I made a 'deal' with my fifth period if it reached 1 million during their class, they could sit wherever they wanted the entire week. During lunch, I checked, and it reached 1 million. So when they came back from recess, I announced it, and it was like I was a rockstar. They screamed and cheered for me. It was an incredible moment for me."

The irony, of course, is that Allen was acting like a teacher in her grudgeball video—an engaged teacher with engaged students who are actively participating in the learning process. Just because it doesn't look like serious study doesn't mean it's not learning, and for some kids, this kind of activity might be far more effective at helping them remember things they've learned (in this case, vocabulary words) than less energetic ways of reviewing.

Allen has her thumb on the pulse of her students and goes out of her way to meet them where they are. Last year, for instance, she created a "mental health day" for her students. "I could tell they were getting burnt out from all the state tests, regular homework, and personal life extracurricular activities that many of my students participate in," she says. "We went to my school library for 'fireside reading,' solved a murder mystery, built blanket forts, watched the World Cup, colored, and completed sudokus. Is it part of the curriculum? No. Is it worth spending one class period doing something mentally rewarding for students? Absolutely."

Teaching middle school requires a lot of different skills, but perhaps the most important one is to connect with students, partly because it's far easier to teach someone actually wants to be in your classroom and partly because effective teaching is about so much more than just academics. A teacher might be the most caring, stable, trustworthy adult in some students' lives. What looks like silly fun and games in a classroom can actually help students feel safe and welcomed and valued, knowing that a teacher cares enough to try to make learning as enjoyable as possible. Plus, shared laughter in a classroom helps build a community of engaged learners, which is exactly what a classroom should be.

Keep up the awesome work, Ms. Allen, both in the classroom and in the comment section.

You can follow Amy Allen on TikTok and YouTube.

A mother and daughter read before bed.

In a world where both parents usually have to work to support a child, it’s rare that a parent can spend the entire day with their kids. So, as parents, we have to do our best to be there when they need us the most.

TikTokker Sara Martinez says there are 3 key moments a day when a parent should be with their child: the three minutes after they wake up, the three minutes after they get home from school or daycare, and the three minutes before they go to bed.

Affective neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp is widely credited with the 9-minute theory. “It’s a common thread among parents, from those who stay at home and juggle countless tasks to working parents who face their own unique challenges,” Martinez told Newsweek.


Joanna Seidel, MSW, RSW, the Clinical Director and Founder of Toronto Family Therapy & Mediation Inc., says that the 9-minute practice is probably related to attachment theory. “The times the mother is referencing in the video are all significant—they are times of routine and transition—therefore moments where critical parenting is involved,” Seidel told Parents.

@iamsaramartinez

I always struggle with mom guilt and questioning if i was present enough. If this is true or not, I do find setting aside specific time to be present with my toddler (no phones out, etc) has made a positive impact. #raisingkids #parenting #parentingtips #parentingtip #childpsychology #raisingtoddlers #toddlerparents #toddlermom #presentparenting #toddlermama #raisingchildren

She adds that being present for children during these 3 key moments helps foster “security, consistency, and a meaningful presence—all of which is done to form a secure (emotional and physical) foundation for your child(ren).”

The 9-minute theory resonated with many of the moms who watched the video. “This is such a comforting theory for a working mom,” Marisa wrote. “I’m not perfect but I can try to be in THOSE 9 minutes,” Emmy added.

A tourist visiting Italy. (Representative image)

Americans pride themselves on living in the “best country in the world.” However, the American way of life isn’t for everyone and some prefer the more laid-back approach to life that people enjoy in Europe.

Four years ago, a writer named Roze left her tiny apartment in Los Angeles, booked a one-way flight to Turn, Italy and never looked back. Now, she documents her new life in Europe on TikTok to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Recently, she posted a video in which she counts down 5 things that she’ll never do now that she lives in Italy. These are examples of the relief some Americans feel when they move to Europe and settle into their new, stress-free lifestyle.


1. Rush

"One of the first things that attracted me to Italian culture is the fact that people don't seem to be in a rush. There are no drive-thrus. People don't walk and eat. If you need a coffee, you sit down and drink a cup of coffee. There's always time for that."

2. Own a car

"I don't plan on ever living in a place where you need a car to get around. I don’t like the expense of a car and it’s just bad for the environment.”

3. Live for work

“I’ll never obsess about work as much as I used to do in the U.S. Now, I'm not saying that people don't work here. People work very hard, but there's not as many people who make working hard their whole personality."

@rozeinitaly

A few ways my perspective has changed since moving abroad, maybe some other American immigrants can relate? #fivethingschallenge #5thingsiwouldneverdo #5thingschallenge #americanimmigrant #movingabroadtips #expatsinitaly #italylifestyle #lifeinitaly🇮🇹

4. Trust the internet for business hours

"If you look it up on Google Maps, it says that it's open from 10 am to, I think, 7 or 7:30 pm. Does that mean I can go there at like 2:30 3 o'clock? No. What is not listed on there is that they are closed from 1 to 4 for lunch."

5. Worry about medical bills

“I just don’t plan on living anywhere where there is not some kind of universal healthcare.”

Lunchables have lead in them, parents are reacting with shock

Today's kids are busier than ever, which means parents are often feeding them something quick on those days. A quick go to has been Lunchables, a prepackaged kid-friendly meal with a sweet treat inside. Some are just made to be snacks and those contain crackers, cheese, luncheon meat and cookies or candy. But the other Lunchables come complete with full sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets or hot dogs and include a drink.

They made the perfect thing to grab in a pinch and fit perfectly into lunch boxes. But parents are getting a jolt as a new consumer release reveals that these solutions to a quick meal or snack actually contain large amounts of lead. Yes, lead. Turns out there isn't really a regulation on how much lead can be in foods in America outside of California. One dad took to social media to express his dismay at the discovery of this information.


Pearlmania500 says in a shocked tone, "oh my God, Lunchables have lead in them? They got 74% of the maximum allowable dose. We have a maximum allowable doses of lead? On no, that's in California because there is no federal limit so you can just put–THERE'S NO FEDERAL LIMIT TO HOW MUCH LEAD YOU CAN PUT IN A LUNCHABLE!"

@pearlmania500

Consumer reports research is out there for all concerned parents to see #parenting #schoollunch #moms #dads #grandparents #PTA #pizza #pearlmania500 #news getting harder to trust these food companies

The more he reads the consumer report, the more shocked he becomes at the staggering amount of lead found in these products our children consume. Parents in the comments are just as flabbergasted as he is.

"Thank goodness it's not in paint anymore so paint chips are now safer to eat than luncables," someone writes.

"WAIT IS THAT WHY THE CEO OF THE COMPANY SAID HE WOULDN'T FEED THEM TO HIS KIDS," a commenter questions.

"Well thank God they took the lead out of the paint and made sure the kids eat it in their lunch," another writes.

"My daughter has high lead levels and we couldn't figure out why. We changed everything except eating lunchables," someone else says.

One commenter wrote a multi-comment response to the video explaining that his college professor warned them of the high levels of lead in foods. Others were now suddenly thankful their parents couldn't afford to buy Lunchables when they were children. This will likely be something that spurs change, but in the meantime parents are probably going to toss out these quick meals just in case.

It's mu-fu-' Lunchables, man 5 dollars a pack We gon' make… | Flickr

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Jamey Stillings, Wikipedia/ Canva

There's a new way to give tough love.

The “sandwich technique,” also known as a “compliment sandwich” or “feedback sandwich,” has been a tool for delivering criticism since the 1940s. But it really became something of a workplace staple after 1984, thanks to Mary Kay Ash’s book “People Management.”

The idea seems sound enough. The deliverer of the criticism would first offer a compliment to the recipient, followed by the actual feedback, then another bit of praise. This should theoretically allow the criticism to be received without bruising any ego or hurting any feelings. Everybody wins.

But according to organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant, the compliment sandwich “doesn’t taste as good as it looks.”

In various interviews, podcasts, social media posts and even a Substack article, Grant has chalked up the compliment sandwich ineffectiveness to two major shortcomings.

One being that people are simply too familiar with it. So whatever compliment is given, no matter how genuine it may be, people know what’s coming next and they begin “waiting for the other shoe drop.” Knowing the compliments are obligatory can actually make someone take the criticism ever more personally.

Two: the opposite can happen. Because people tend to remember the first and last parts of a conversation, the criticism might be downplayed or outright buried underneath the positive feedback. This goes especially for narcissists, Grant notes.

Luckily there is a kind, yet efficient way to give some tough love. And it all boils down to one simple sentence:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

The phrase comes from a 2013 study conducted by researchers at Stanford,who were able to increase a student’s openness to criticism by at least 40% just by using those 19 words.

As Grant explains, this strategy works because it conveys an intention to help a person become the best version of themselves. “It’s surprisingly easy to hear a hard truth when it comes from someone who believes in your potential and cares about your success.”

Of course, using the exact words isn’t mandatory. The point is focusing on helping someone improve, rather than attacking or patronizing them.

To that point, Grant also has a few other helpful pointers, like not assuming a position of superiority, asking if the person is open to feedback first (Grant attests they usually welcome it) and lastly, keeping the language transparent, not manipulative.

At the end of the day, most people want to grow, become better people, and live up to their potential. Remembering that one little truism can go a long way.