Poverty Rates Demand a New Conversation!

On Thursday, September 16, the Census Bureau released new data on income, poverty and health insurance coverage.  The news was bleak—increased rates of poverty and decreased health insurance coverage as a result of the current and ongoing recession.

The release of data by the Census Bureau revealed:

3.7 million more Americans have fallen into poverty in 2009, driven by deep job losses and prolonged unemployment.

In 2009, the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance coverage also grew.

Despite this bad news, the news could have been much worse—the Census is also reporting that 3.3 million Americans continue to receive unemployment insurance benefits—keeping many of them barely above the poverty level.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities believes the Recovery Act also helped alleviate the poverty levels through the Making Work Pay credit and food stamps.

As of June 2009, almost one in eight Oregonians* were living in poverty—think of the combined populations of Newport, Salem, Eugene, Medford, Bend, Pendleton, and Corvallis.  If figures were available for today, that number would be even higher.  This is a tragedy, and threatens to undermine the very foundation of our communities.

We know how to solve this problem.  We have tools and strategies to help create economic opportunity for all Oregonians, and together we can solve this problem so that all Oregonians benefit.  As our communities begin to thrive again, the connections between us and our interdependence mean that we will all feel the benefits—of a more vibrant economy, engaged and successful residents, thriving neighborhoods and towns.

Tools and public structures are already in place to support these goals:

Unemployment Insurance protects those who have lost jobs as a result of this recession.  It prevents families from falling deeper into debt or homelessness.

Food stamps are also a critical safety net.  Food stamps help families put food on the table for their children, support our local farmers, and put money straight back into the local economy as the dollars are spent immediately.

As we continue to see the impacts of this recession, we know that we all could be doing more.  Neighborhood Partnerships sees this as an opportunity to engage Oregonians in a conversation.  What do we want our state to look like?  How do we work together to build security for our middle class, hard working families, and create opportunity for all of our residents to build a better future?  Let’s not be the generation that didn’t have high hopes for their kids—let’s work together to make this the Oregon we believe in.

* 13.4% of the population, or 510,000