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Census Data: Sharp Spike in KY Families in Poverty

October 4, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Great Recession is taking a hefty toll on Kentucky families. Latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that poverty in the state is outpacing the increase in the national rate. The Census data translate to over 770,000 Kentuckians living in poverty in 2009.

Jason Bailey, research and policy director for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, says many Kentuckians are casualties of major job losses in manufacturing and construction industries that paid well even to workers without a college education.

"The disappearance of those jobs is obviously, in the short run, a real problem for those families. In the long run, it's a challenge for our economy as a whole. How can we find and create jobs that provide a standard of living for Kentucky families?"

He says the spike in poverty is in step with a sluggish economy that's also slicing into state revenues.

"And that's threatened investments in education, in health care, in a lot of public services that help families get by. We've seen serious, deep cuts to that."

Bailey says the economic times make the case for a serious revision of the state's tax code that will drum up more state revenue and help families get and keep their heads above water.

"We can update our sales tax to the service economy. We can look at taxing higher-income Kentuckians more. We can look at closing some of the loopholes, the corporate loopholes, that have meant revenue from out-of-state corporations is not coming into our treasury."

Bailey says federal assistance Kentucky has received by way of stimulus dollars is running out. A number of provisions in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that have helped Kentucky families, says Bailey, will sunset this year unless Congress extends them.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY