10 October 2009

Census Bureau: Michigan Poverty Rate Hits 14.4%

From Petoskey News-Review

The U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday reported that poverty climbed in Michigan for the second year in a row even as lawmakers finalizing the budget appeared poised to maintain some safety net programs.

Of the eight states with increases in poverty, Michigan was the only one that also had an increase the previous year. About one in every seven people in Michigan (14.4 percent) lived in poverty in 2008, up from 14 percent in 2007. For children, the rates are much higher with nearly one in every four young children living in families below the poverty line.

“We are extremely busy,” said Bill Denemy, director of the Department of Human Services for Emmet and Charlevoix counties. “Yesterday we had more than 1,000 phone calls and more 150 people through our doors. That’s a lot for a small office.”

Denemy said the department is seeing a steady increase and more middle-class people applying for assistance.

“People who have never relied on assistance before are asking for it. There’s definitely a correlation between the unemployment rate and people who need assistance — it all ties together,” he said. “A lot people are coming through doors whose employment benefits have been exhausted — that’s statewide. We are seeing a whole new population since the economy started to deteriorate and we are preparing for a large influx of people whose benefits will be exhausted soon if they haven’t been already.”

Denemy said the department is waiting for next year’s budget to pass.

“Hopefully it won’t be the poor and indigent that suffer from the budget,” he said.

On the chopping block were steep cuts to the working poor, low-income families with children, adults with disabilities and the elderly poor. Already, services provided through Medicaid and other prevention services have been cut. The Department of Community Health budget passed by the Senate contains difficult cuts to Medicaid providers, but the cash assistance grant, children’s clothing allowance and child day care program were not cut in the Department of Human Services conference report approved Tuesday.

“We have to get back to helping each other out,” Denemy said. “If you see a neighbor in need, take a moment and lend them a helping hand.”

The facts:

Since 2000, Michigan’s poverty rate has jumped by 43 percent. In 2000, 10.1 percent lived in poverty, below the national average. The poverty level in 2008 was just over $17,000 for a family of three and about $22,000 for a family of four.

The release from the American Community Survey also found:

  • Michigan’s poverty rate of 14.4 percent is higher than the national rate of 13.2 percent
  • 19.4 percent of children in Michigan live in poverty
  • 22.4 percent of children under age 5 live in poverty
  • Michigan’s family poverty rate jumped from 10.1 percent of families in 2007 to 10.5 percent in 2008.

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