MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — According to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census, the percentage of children living in poverty in Minnesota continues to grow.
Now 80,000 more children are living in poverty compared to 2000 (114,000), an increase of about 70 percent. Officially, an estimated 194,000 (15.4 percent) children were living in poverty in Minnesota in 2011, a trend that has continued to increase for more than 10 years. Compared to last year, the number increased only slightly by 2,000 children from 192,000 in 2010.
“When you compare the number to 2,000, you get 80,000 more living in poverty, a 70 percent increase, it’s just huge”, said Kara Arzamendia with the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota.
Arzamendia said that the social safety net set up for these ‘working poor’ has developed holes.
“A lot of public programs have not kept pace with families and a lot of it has to do with the general state of the economy as well,” she said.
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Chris Simon Reports
Arzamendia said this is the wrong time for anyone, even the two candidates for President, to begin talking about cutting back on entitlements and tax credits designed to help the working poor make ends meet.
“The Earned Income Tax Credit is the best anti-poverty program that we have, it’s a great program that reinforces work. You have to be working in order to get it. You have to have earned wages since it does come after you file your taxes,” said Arzamendia.
She points out that the federal poverty threshold for a family of four in 2011 was about $22,350 a year, while a full-time minimum wage worker would only earn about $15,000 a year. Because minimum wage does not allow a family to meet a basic cost of living, investments in work support programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care assistance are critical to keep families out of poverty.
Arzamendia said some programs like the child care subsidy need more political support. Since it is not income tax-based or an entitlement, it is paid for from a limited pool of funds. While families go on waiting lists, employment opportunities are lost.
“These are families that are eligible to receive subsidies for childcare. They are working or going to school, and today in Minnesota there are almost 8,000 families are waiting for that assistance,” said Arzamendia.
Without these supports, families will struggle to move to a place of self-sufficiency so they can support their families.