Why Require Gross Income For Assistance Vs Net Income?

Empty Pockets

It’s that time of year again, kids are back to school in a few weeks and I’m applying for reduced rate meals at school because meals are expensive. For my two kids, based on 20 school days a month, meals will cost $92/mo. With reduced rate meals, that comes down to $16, which was a lifeline during the 2017/18 school year, however, my wife started a part-time job, which puts us $389/yr over the income limit.

Now, if we actually took home $45,344 a year, I would not complain, but we lose 16% of our income in federal and state taxes, plus mandatory medical insurance, which is another 9.7% of our combined income, even after the ACA subsidy. After taxes and insurance, our net income is just $33,691, a difference of $11,653, which unless you’re a millionaire, is not an insignificant amount of money.

I have applied for reduced rate school meals anyway, hoping that the bureaucrats won’t be petty over $389 a year.  To put that into perspective, that’s just $7.48 a week, and the full price school meals will cost $23/week without the financial assistance. But, I’m not hopeful, bureaucrats are petty by nature.

PANIC OVER! I was handed information for the 2017/18 school year, not the 2018/19 school year, we just about scrape under the 2018/19 income limit for reduced cost school meals. But, my point still stands, why do we, as a country, calculate eligibility from gross income without factoring in such things as rent/mortgage costs, electricity, water is also not free, for us that is an average of $330 – $350/mo.

I work in the home rental field, so I know how much average rent costs in the city where I live, and for a 3 bedroom home, which you would need for a family like mine, two adults, a 13-year-old boy, and an 8-year-old girl, is $911/mo; we pay a little more than that, $925/mo for a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home, the fourth bedroom acts as my office as I work from home, which saves me a little money on travel costs.

Moving onto travel, most people have to travel to work, which, where I live is car-dependent, public transport is somewhat limited if you work outside of the central city area. So we can factor in car loan payments, insurance and fuel costs, which for us comes to roughly $480/mo with rising gas prices.

Then, we come to groceries, which weigh in at $650 – $800/mo, we could shop cheaper, but we want our kids to have a well-balanced diet, which costs more, this is why so many families suffer from obesity, there is a direct link between lower incomes and obesity, because unhealthy processed food is cheap.

Finally, we have school costs with many schools moving to a uniform based system, meaning parents have to find another $150 per child, maybe twice a school year to buy uniforms, plus stationery supplies for school, which could easily add another $100 + registration fees, albeit a one time fee per school year.

If you add all of the above together, it comes to over $30,000 a year. I understand that some people have to live with much less, but in our case, where I get a good salary for the area, and we still have to struggle financially. We don’t lead an extravagant lifestyle, in fact, we barely go out, maybe 8-10 times a year, I only eat one meal a day, I rarely drink alcohol, I don’t smoke and we’re still barely making it.

To summarize, it’s a broken system when a dollar amount is taken as a basis for assistance, which the person being judged will never see in their [virtual] wallet. We should also take into account basic living costs, people don’t have their whole income after tax to spend on whatever takes their fancy.

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