SPENT, the online game about surviving poverty and homelessness, reaches its millionth play and invites Congress to accept the challenge
More than 1 million gamers and nongamers alike have tried surviving on $1,000 a month; now McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham invite Congress to accept the challenge and quickly see that poverty and homelessness can happen to anyone
SPENT, the innovative online game about surviving poverty and homelessness, has now been played more than 1 million times in more than 196 countries worldwide.
Your savings are gone. You’ve lost your house. Accept the challenge to see if you can make it through the month on your last $1,000, learning quickly how changes in employment, housing, medical costs and other expenses can create an unexpected shortfall.
• Play through a series of difficult challenges that require tough choices about work, where you live and what you can provide for your family, seeing all too soon how decisions lead to unimagined consequences.
By Tami Luhby @CNNMoney September 14, 2011: 5:46 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Without help from the federal government, millions more people would have sunk below the poverty line in 2010, U.S. Census data shows.
Unemployment insurance helped keep 3.2 million Americans out of poverty in 2010, according to new statistics released Tuesday. Without this vital lifeline, which lasts up to 99 weeks, these jobless folks would have joined the roughly 46.2 million people now considered in poverty.
Other government assistance programs, such as food stamps, also provided much-needed support to the poor. But because the Census Bureau's official poverty statistics don't consider these income sources, they were not taken into account when determining whether a person fell below the line, which is $22,314 for a family of four.
However, the Census Bureau does calculate what impact this assistance would have had if it were measured. Food stamp benefits would have lifted 3.9 million people out of poverty had that aid been counted as income.
And 5.4 million people, including 3 million children, would not have been considered impoverished had the Earned Income Tax Credit been counted. The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working Americans. Some 22 states also offer similar credits.
Federal health programs, including Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, also helped hundreds of thousands of youngsters stay insured even though their parents lost employer-based coverage. Some 570,000 fewer children were uninsured in 2010 than in 2007, before the recession began.
The number of people receiving help from the federal government is hovering near all-time highs as the Great Recession unleashed wave upon wave of layoffs. And with unemployment remaining stubbornly elevated, many Americans have had a hard time getting back on their feet again.
Roughly one in six Americans are on government aid, with the largest two programs being Medicaid and food stamps.
But federal and state budget crunches are swiftly chipping away at these safety nets. At least six states cut back on the number of weeks that the jobless can collect state unemployment insurance. Some states have reduced the generosity of their Earned Income Tax Credit, while Michigan recently limited the amount of time the poor can collect cash welfare benefits.