Posted by Clare S. Richie
Nearly one in five Georgians — and one out of four children — lives in poverty. That’s a lot: in only four other states is the poverty rate higher.
We’re talking about an income of $22,350 for a family of four. That’s less than half of what it takes for a family of that size just to meet its basic needs.
What’s even more troubling is that in nine Georgia counties the poverty rate is still higher – a third of the children are poor. And unfortunately, poverty isn’t something kids can “grow out” of: being poor as a child hurts achievement in school and reduces the lifetime earnings of adults.
There’s no question that a major cause of Georgia’s dismal poverty rates is the lack of jobs. Nearly half a million Georgians are out of work, and for every five laid-off workers seeking employment there is only one job opening. At 8.7 percent, Georgia’s unemployment rate remains well above the national average.
Nor is a job a guaranteed ticket to the middle class. Median income among Georgia households reached a new low of $46,007 since the start of the recession.
These troubling facts are a flashing signal that Georgia policymakers can’t ignore. In the upcoming 2013 legislative session, more needs to be done to expand opportunity to help the poor lift themselves into the middle class. That means reversing the deep cuts made since the recession to health care, education and other key services that help build a strong economy. Just one example: the number of staff that help families sign up for Food Stamps dropped by nearly 18 percent, while Food Stamp uses jumped nearly 75 percent.
Continuing to rely on a cuts-only approach will make it more difficult for Georgia families to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Instead, we need a balanced approach that includes new revenue so Georgia can invest in the state’s economy and provide help for struggling families.
Find more information in GBPI’s fact sheet, Georgia Poverty Still on the Rise, With Children Hit Hardest.