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Report: Recession Will Push Thousands More Children into Poverty

February 18, 2009

Richmond - A study linking current unemployment with future poverty finds a dramatic increase in poverty rates as the recession deepens in Virginia. As unemployment worsens in the state, there will be a significant increase in the number of children living in poverty, according to the study, conducted by The Commonwealth Institute and Voices for Virginia's Children>/em>.

For the first time, the study connected current unemployment rates to future poverty. It found that if unemployment nationwide is eight percent, as many as 169,000 additional Virginians will slip into poverty, including 55,000 children.

Michael Cassidy, executive director of The Commonwealth Institute, says there's quite a bit Virginia can do to support the unemployed and keep families out of poverty.

"We could take action to expand the level of benefits that are offered, and provide coverage by the system to a greater number of workers, so that people who lose their jobs will actually have a safety net there to help them."

Cassidy adds that in 2007, only 27 percent of unemployed Virginians even collected unemployment benefits. He says lawmakers should extend unemployment benefits to people seeking part-time employment.

He says extending unemployment benefits now will pay off in the future.

"One of the long-term consequences of a growing number of children being pushed into poverty is that they're much more likely to remain in poverty as adults, which provides a continuing stress on the society and on these individuals and their families."

Cassidy says that while official poverty numbers won't be available until later this year, two leading indicators of poverty - unemployment and food stamps - have already increased rapidly in the past year. The poverty threshold for a family of four in Virginia is a yearly income of just over $21,000.

More information is at www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA