Evidence seen locally of poverty rate increase
by Matt Shinall
Sep 16, 2011 | 3237 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A long line of Bartow County residents lined up for food distributed by Tallatoona in April at the ATCO clubhouse. Resource officials in Bartow County have seen a drastic rise in need as the nation’s poverty rate worsens. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
A long line of Bartow County residents lined up for food distributed by Tallatoona in April at the ATCO clubhouse. Resource officials in Bartow County have seen a drastic rise in need as the nation’s poverty rate worsens. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
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More Americans are now living in poverty than they have in the 52 years of record keeping by the U.S. Census Bureau. Although the percentage is 7.3 points lower than that of when the study began in 1959, by volume the 46.2 million Americans found to be below the poverty level in 2010 outnumber any of the previous years.

Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report announcing the official 2010 poverty rate was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, marking the nation's third consecutive annual increase.

Evidence of this trend has been seen locally by Barbara Chambers, resource coordinator for Tallatoona Community Action Partnership's Bartow County HRDC.

"In Bartow County, [the poverty rate] is at 14.9 percent, which is about 14,000 people actually living below the poverty rate. It has increased over 2009 by about 1,000 people that are now living in poverty," Chambers said. "We can't actually fill the need of everyone there but we work with other resources within the county that help us take care of the clients."

Tallatoona CAP assists low-income families with basic needs, including utility and rent assistance, food, nutrition, weatherization and employment counseling. Chambers said at times the Bartow Tallatoona staff has been seen helping up to 50 residents in a normal workday. Crowds, however, swell above capacity at utility assistance registration and special food distributions.

"We have more people coming in day to day and it's not typically the people you would think would be coming in. It's people that have had jobs in very prestigious positions that have been laid off or let go or they've restructured the job duties," Chambers said. "It's all walks of life that we see that comes in, and it has increased for rental assistance, utility assistance and we've seen more people coming in that are facing foreclosure. So, our programs have really increased where our funding has not. The need is there, the need is great; the funding, however, does not really stand up to the number of people that we see every day."

The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August rose to 10.2 percent reaching the same height as August 2010. The stubbornly stagnant unemployment rate seen nationwide was reflected in the neutral jobs report for August released earlier this month. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent.

As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2010 was $22,314.

Linda Thomas, resource coordinator with the Bartow County Resource Office, also has seen a drastic rise in need. Their food pantry is almost empty as are many pantries and food banks. She too has noticed a change in those seeking help.

"It's nonstop over here, and it's people, a lot of them have never needed help before. Some of them used all of their savings trying to hold onto their houses and lost them anyway. Last month we saw 134 and the shelters stay full all the time," Thomas said. "All the agencies are going through the same thing. ... We're seeing more and more new people out of work, there's just no jobs."

For more information on local resources or to donate to Tallatoona CAP, contact Chambers at 770-382-4222.