‘We were denied for free and reduced lunch because we exceeded the poverty level.’
The federal poverty level is $20,598. Meaning anyone who earns above it does not qualify for federal support programs. But the true poverty level — the minimum a family of three needs to earn in order to get by in New Jersey — is $74,372. And there are more than 3 million people in New Jersey who fall below that number, with more than 2 million making too much to qualify for federal support, but not enough to pay for daily expenses like food, housing, childcare, transportation and health care. Advocates say the federal government should adjust the federal poverty level to account for the cost of living in high-cost states like New Jersey, so that individuals and families don’t go without their basic needs.