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Study shows lack of jobs increasing poverty rates


January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Study shows lack of jobs increasing poverty rates


REGION, December 18th- A newly released report shows that millions of families have experienced hardship during the first year of the Great Recession in 2008.

The report compiles Census Bureau data on poverty in 2008 by congressional district, with additional breakdowns on child poverty, women in poverty, and poverty among racial minorities.

The Census Bureau released its national estimates on September 10th, 2009, showing that the number of people living in poverty in 2008 rose from 37.3 million (12.5 percent) to 39.8 million (13.2 percent).

The number released in 2010 will reflect 2009’s dismal job losses and are expected to be significantly worse. The unemployment rate in 2008 averaged 5.8 percent, but is expected to exceed 9 percent on average for 2009.

“This data offers lawmakers a more detailed look into the growing poverty rates among their own constituents. As we head into the new year, we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to advance the necessary policies to help those most in need during this time of economic turmoil while laying the groundwork for a shared economic recovery,” said Melissa Boteach, an economist for the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington, DC.

The 2008 picture was particularly bleak for women, children, and minorities. The breakdown by congressional district reveals that the child poverty rate above thirty percent in thirty-six districts across seventeen states. Economists predict that next year’s data will show that one in four children in America was poor in 2009.

The study shows disparities by race and gender also continue unabated. Women’s poverty rates are above the district average in all but 15 of the 437 congressional districts analyzed, which include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than one in four African Americans live below the poverty level in 188 congressional districts, and Latino poverty rates are higher than twenty-five percent in 145 congressional districts.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Jobs for Main Street Act in December, which includes effective job creation stategies such as aid to states and localities, new public service jobs for hard-hit communities, extensions of emergency unemployment insurance and COBRA provisions, improvements to the child tax credit, and investments in the national housing trust fund.

“Job creation strategies should focus on putting more Americans to work in the short term, but they should also focus on long-term solutions that provide the most vulnerable populations with the skills they need to access jobs, provide for their families and contribute to the economy. Without long-term solutions that equip more workers with the skills they need to access employment, the economy won’t truly recover for all Americans,” said Evelyn Ganzglass of the American Progress Action Fund. “Further, workers and their families also need supports to meet their basic needs and stay afloat as they search for employment or acquire the skills needed to access good jobs in growth areas of the economy,” Ms. Ganzglass added.

“We need both short and long-term plans to help families through the worst of the recession while keeping our eye on the bigger picture to ensure that education, training, and economic opportunity are available to those who need it most,” said Wade Henderson President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, DC.

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