Posted by Tara Manthey on September 22nd 2011
Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance and other supports prevented many from falling into poverty in 2010
LITTLE ROCK - The number of Arkansas children living in poverty continued to increase last year, according to new Census Bureau data released today. More than 27 percent of Arkansas kids now live in families living below the poverty line, highlighting the need for Arkansas to protect investments in support systems for working families.
Arkansas has the fifth highest child poverty rate among states and Washington, D.C. In 2010, it was 27.2 percent-up from 23.8 percent in 2006 just before the recession. The state's overall poverty level remained flat between 2009 and 2010 at 18.8 percent. However, widespread use of support services including SNAP (or food stamps) show that many Arkansans still need help as the economy slowly recovers.
With Arkansas facing budget shortfalls in coming years, state lawmakers need to protect health care, education and other key services or face worsening local and state economies, said Rich Huddleston, Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
"Businesses are drawn to communities that have invested in an educated workforce, safe neighborhoods and strong infrastructure," Huddleston said. "Protecting those investments not only keeps our state open for business, but also supports working families struggling with the effects of the recession. We know that upcoming budget shortfalls will have to be met with some cuts, but we'll also have to look at more revenue so we don't slide further behind in competition for new employers and investing in our future workforce."
The number of people living in poverty also underscores the critical role of federal assistance, including unemployment insurance, expanded food stamps and tax credits for middle- and low-income households, Huddleston said.
"As bad as poverty levels are today, Census figures from last week show that those programs kept millions more Americans from falling below the poverty line in 2010," he said.
While K-12 education money in Arkansas is largely protected from cuts during budget shortfalls, there are many other education priorities outside of the K-12 system that need protecting. Efforts to provide an opportunity to learn for minority and low-income children include quality early education classes, literacy programs, health services in schools and child health insurance coverage. These proven anti-poverty strategies help pull children out of cycles of poverty and the state should continue to invest in them, Huddleston said.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is a statewide, non-profit child advocacy organization established in 1977. Our mission is to ensure that all children and their families have the resources and opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives and to realize their full potential. On the web at www.aradvocates.org.