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Report: More Poverty, Less Health Coverage In California

September 17, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that California's poverty rate jumped to 15.3 percent in 2009, the highest level in 11 years. That translates to one in seven - or 5.6 million - Californians living below the federal poverty level. The national average is a full point lower, at 14.3 percent.

Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan public policy research group, says the report is proof of just how hard the recession has hit the Golden State.

"The collapse of the housing sector in California was much deeper than in many other states; we still have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country; and a lot of what we're seeing really results from the weakness in the labor market."

As the number of people living in poverty increased, so did the number without health insurance; more than one out of five Californians under the age of 65 lacked coverage in 2009.

Meanwhile, California has now set a record for the longest the state has gone without a state budget plan in place. Ross says the new poverty report emphasizes the importance of making smart budget choices that help create jobs and move the economy forward.

"The governor, for example, proposes to eliminate all state child care assistance. That would hit the same families that we're talking about here. Those child care programs allow families with incomes at or just above the poverty level to work."

Ross says the report also highlights the need for policy changes and continued federal aid. She points to a study by her group that found unemployment insurance benefits kept 3.3 million people across the nation out of poverty in 2009.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA