More than 1 in 4 children in Kentucky are now living in poverty, according to new Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey, released today. Child poverty in Kentucky increased to 26.5 percent in 2012 from 25.6 percent in 2009, bringing the total number of children who live in poverty to 263,819. The poverty threshold in 2012 for a family of four with two children means making an income below $23,283.
These numbers are likely not surprising for Kentuckians. We live in a poor state, and new numbers indicate median household income is stagnant. A trip to the grocery store or gas station will remind us of the situation of many working people. For example, my colleague was at Kroger last weekend and overheard the following story:
Man in line, speaking to man at the checkout: Hey man, how are you? Last time I saw you, you were working at Dairy Queen.
Checker: Yeah, still doing that but it wasn’t enough so I had to find another job to help with money.
Man in line: Well, that’s good. That’s good. Those two jobs will pay off.
Checker: Yeah, I’m still waiting for that day to come.
A successful Kentucky depends on successful families. Right now, so many throughout the Commonwealth are still waiting for that day to come. What does it mean for a man in Kentucky to be working two jobs and still not making ends meet? What more will it take for our political leaders to step up for the interest of our children and working families?
Legislators will be heading to Frankfort in January to build the next two year state budget and it’s time for hard working families to be a priority in the budget. Budgets always require tough choices. But especially now – Kentucky can’t afford a budget that fails to invest in kids. These investments can include enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit, restoring funds to the Child Care Assistance Program and the Kinship Care Program, and really considering raising the state minimum wage.