Report: OC’s Safety Net Programs Do Little to Cut Poverty

Social safety net programs cut just 5 percent of the overall poverty rate in Orange County, according to a December report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), ranking it at the bottom among California counties on that measure.

By comparison, the report, which calculates how much the countywide poverty rate would increase in the absence of state and federal anti-poverty programs, found such programs cut poverty rates by 6.6 percent in San Diego County; 9.3 percent in Los Angeles County; and 14.3 percent in the Central Valley and Sierra counties. The Bay Area joined Orange County at the bottom of the list with a cut of 5 percent.


Variations in poverty levels are influenced by the scale and scope of safety net programs, which are almost entirely funded by the state and federal governments but administered by individual counties, according to Caroline Danielson, a PPIC fellow who co-authored the report.

Danielson, who studies anti-poverty programs and local governance, said two other major factors — enrollment rates and eligibility — could also affect county poverty rates.

The report uses an adjusted poverty calculation formulated last year by PPIC and the Stanford Center of Poverty and Inequality, which accounts for cost of living and other family resources on top of federal poverty measures.

“In our measure, we recalculated the resources that get combined to say what you have, which includes tax credits and food stamps, and what resources you need to have to be above the main poverty line,” Danielson said.

According to the report’s adjusted calculations, a family of four in Orange County with an annual income at or below $33,000 is living in poverty.

“The official poverty threshold for that size family would be around $5,000 less per year, so that means some families in poverty might not be eligible for programs that have low income cutoffs,” Danielson said, referring to the federal threshold of $24,250 in annual income.

The report also notes one major cost for families that is not included in federal poverty calculations: housing.

Adjusted poverty rates are especially high in counties like Los Angeles (25.7 percent) and Orange (21.8 percent) where housing costs are high, compared to counties like Placer (13.3 percent) and Sacramento County (18.2 percent).

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  • Jacki Livingston

    I can speak to this with some authority, because I was a client in the OC in the 80’s, and I put myself through school, working and fighting and being a disabled single mom. At THAT time, there was accountability, and I always knew that one step wrong, and I could lose the nets holding us up. I graduated on the President’s List at UCI, I was the founder of single parent organizations at OCC and UCI and I served on the Judicial Board for UC statewide. I worked my way off of every program, one job to a better job to a better job. I can tell you that, then, SSA had strong leadership and programs that made it clear, you either got your behind in gear of get out. They knew I was disabled with very little education. They knew I was a single mom. They cheered for me, pushed me and forced me to better myself, and I thank them for that. I even went to law school.

    SSA, now, is nothing like that. I wanted to give back to the County that gave to me, so I waited six years to get a job there, because of the bankruptcy. I wanted to be that person cheering for my clients. But the new wave at SSA is all about “give the benefits to them, we don’t care if they are qualified, just give it to them, numbers are all that matter, call centers, no people talking to real people”. You cannot effect a change on poverty in the OC that way. Plus, the bigwigs at the top make bonuses based on how much federal money they spend. Obviously, there is no incentive for accountability. And, the place is now run by frat boy wannabes who have no education about the real world (no, Odon, University of Phoenix online is not college…get a grip, son), so they have no frame of reference about what that agency should be doing. They sleep their way through staff, hire young pups who know nothing about the world, and who have no real education, and they surround themselves with the rewards they get from cheating the system, such as payoffs from nursing homes. In short, they are forcing out all of the people who are in it for bettering the county and people, and replaced them with money hungry weasels. This is why no changes are happening in reducing poverty. Don’t think that the clients don’t know this, because they do. If a worker pushes them, they call Ryan’s office, and get exactly what they want. Poof!

    The current regime is rotten to the core, and that is just how the Gang o’ Five like it.

  • Ron

    And the City Council just gave the overpaid City Manager David Cavasos another raise. After all, it’s not their money and who cares about the less fortunate when they don’t/can’t vote

    • LFOldTimer

      Bingo! We have a winner! The Council in Santa Ana only appease their residents to the point that they preclude riots. And they know that breaking point very well. In the meantime they lavish their insiders (staff and political friends) with absurd compensations that none of them could earn in the private sector in a millions years!.ha. It’s a con game. Rigged. Flim-flam at its best. Cavacos isn’t worth half his compensation. I wonder who he’s dating now? ha.

  • LFOldTimer

    About the only way that you can effectively cut poverty is by creating decent paying jobs that are geared toward those in the poverty class then by persuading those living in poverty to actually take those jobs. Giving money away has never effectively reduced poverty. The US Census Bureau has reported that California has the highest per capita poverty rate of any other state in the union. About 25% overall. There are lots of reasons for that: Offshoring manufacturing jobs, lax immigration policies, a failed K-12 public school system, making welfare benefits so lucrative that there’s a bigger incentive to go on the dole than to work, large corporations paying rock bottom wages and encouraging these workers to simultaneously apply for public benefit welfare programs, ect. I could go on and on. Did you know that JP Morgan, the huge TBTF investment banking corporation, actually administers the food stamp program in the US? ha. So the more people on food stamps the more money JP Morgan makes. ha. Our entire system has been turned into a ponzi scheme. Credit and debt drive the economy today, not productivity. People have been encouraged to live off the dole. People follow incentives. That’s the way we’re designed. Just like mice in a cage push the buzzer button to get a morsel of food. The principle is the same. Poverty will only get worse in America (and Orange County), btw. The divide between the rich and the poor will only grow. Why? Because that’s the game plan developed in the Washington DC and Sacramento think tanks that has been implemented. It’s rather easy to control poor people, if you haven’t noticed. Look to the south in the most impoverished nations. Do you really see much civil disobedience or pushback on part of the populace? ha. So let’s all grow up, be adults and see the world as it is. The circle is closed. You might not be able to change it – but at least you can recognize what’s happening around you. That’s the least you can do.

    • Jacki Livingston

      I am shocked about the JP Morgan facts. That would explain the stated policy of SSA management, which is to ignore the rules and just give the food stamps out. I remember asking my bosses if we should just hand out pre-loaded Food Stamp cards at the door with a free frappucino. Literally, we were instructed to ignore anything that limits their eligibility, and just “give it to them”. I, of course, obeyed the law. Just another reason I was forced out. But they are handing food stamps out like candy. Fraud is rampant. I was told, flat out, by the rising star of management, that “no one cares about the taxpayers, just give it to the applicant”. I may be somewhat liberal, and I believe hungry people need food, but giving food stamps to people who do not need them? That is insanity. Plus, food stamp cards are used by mafia organizations, notably the Ukranians, and they load them with fake benefits. These cards are such a hot ticket item, that people will stand in front of grocery stores and offer cash to people for their food stamp cards. We give the card holder a new card, when they claim to have lost it, and the mafia folks use the old cards and alter them to finance criminal operations in California. One group of criminals funding another group. That is the OC way.