New Data Shows Child Poverty Remains High

Jeffersontown, KY – 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 sustained levels of high poverty come after several years of continued economic hardship for families across Kentucky. Not only did child poverty remain high, but total poverty rose from 18.6 percent in 2009 to 19.4 percent in 2012, bringing the Commonwealth into 47th place compared to other states and the District of Columbia. This new evidence highlights that Kentucky families are still struggling and the upcoming General Assembly session is a key opportunity for policymakers to enact policies that will strengthen Kentucky families and the economy.

“A successful Kentucky depends on successful families,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, “But right now, many hard working families are not able to make ends meet and those economics negatively impact children in our state. When kids succeed, Kentucky’s families and economy win.”

Despite the increase in poverty, the median household income for Kentuckians has increased since 2009. Median household income has risen to $41,724 from $40,072 in 2009.

“Even as the nation recovers from the recession, it is clear that families’ incomes are increasing. While this is positive, it is imperative for Kentucky to invest in proven policies and programs that help working families move out of poverty,” added Brooks.

Recent cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program are already causing some parents to quit work and go on welfare because they cannot afford quality child care. Cuts to the Kinship Care Program are making it harder for grandparents, many of whom are on a fixed income, to step up and raise their grandchildren who have experienced abuse and cannot safely stay with their parents. Both of these programs need to be restored in 2014. In addition, other policies such as enacting a State Earned Income Tax Credit will help working families keep more of their hard earned dollars. A state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a proven way to increase work participation, generate local business and pull families from poverty to prosperity. It is a small investment that would make a big difference in the lives of working Kentucky families and put that money right back into the economy.

“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,” said Brooks. “Budgets always require tough choices. But especially now – Kentucky can’t afford a budget that fails to invest in kids.”

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Andrea Bennett at abennett@kyyouth.org or (502) 381-1176.

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