Recent poverty numbers have been at the forefront of our minds since the Census released two new sets of data this month. We’ve been talking about how child poverty and overall poverty have been increasing while median household income has decreased. The monthly economic indicators that we track from August echo the Census data, painting a pretty bleak picture about Kentucky’s economy and the welfare of children and families. Kentucky is not going to make an economic recovery any time soon.
Participation in the Supplemental Food Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has continued increasing, and even saw the largest month-over-month increase since August of last year. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federally funded program that reduces food insecurities by helping Kentuckians get enough nutritious food to eat, and it brings money into our economy through spending at grocery stores. In August 2011, more than 840,000 Kentuckians received SNAP benefits, up more than one percent since July and up over 33 percent since January 2008.
SOURCE: Cabinet for Health and Family Services: Division of Family Support.
Unemployment Rate is Stagnant and State Revenues Decline
The unemployment rate remained stagnant in August 2011, at 9.5 percent – higher than the U.S. rate of 9.1 percent. This means that the number of people actively looking for work (those counted as unemployed) continues to decline in Kentucky. While this should cause a decrease in the unemployment rate, it has been counterbalanced by a decrease in overall employment, according to Dr. Justine Detzel, OET chief labor market analyst. Fewer people are employed, which would cause the unemployment rate to increase. SNAP provides valuable support for those families unable to find work and those families that are working but aren’t earning enough to make ends meet.
SOURCE: Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.Available at: http://www.workforcekentucky.ky.gov/article.asp?PAGEID=4&SUBID=&articleID=1159
Also, after 15 months of revenue growth, state revenues in August 2011 declined 3 percent since August of last year, and forecasters are predicting that they aren’t going to improve any time soon. This will likely mean yet another challenging budget year when the legislator meets in January to begin crafting the 2012-2014 budget.
It’s clear the economy is not going to be bouncing back any time soon and Kentucky families are still struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the recession. While it is past time for the legislator to take a hard look at introducing new revenues, like broadening the sales tax to include some services, it is also time Kentucky join 24 other states and implement a state-level, refundable Earned Income Tax Credit to help close the gap between what Kentucky workers earn, and what they need to make ends meet for their families.
SOURCE: Office of the State Budget Director, “General Fund and Road Fund Receipts for August 2011” Available at http://www.osbd.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/17C99F63-C88F-464A-B38B-A308EFE2FDCC/0/1108TaxReceipt.pdf