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Shrinking Resources, But Greater Need Ignites Community Action

August 22, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - It's a common refrain about the nation's economy these days: shrinking resources, but greater need. And it's not just households feeling the pressure, but agencies designed to help the needy are overburdened too.

The Community Action Partnership is meeting in San Francisco this week to work out ways to lend a hand to millions in or near poverty. Rob Jones, executive director of Community Action Kentucky, says that, with 43 million people living in poverty and thousands more on the brink, timing is crucial.

"At the same time, we're dealing with the fact that government is continuing to cut programs that are specifically targeted for the people who need the help as a result of the last, really, three years of the economic downturn."

Jones says the numbers tell the grim truth about rising poverty. Some 18 percent of Kentuckians are among the most economically disadvantaged in the nation, with 13 counties having median household incomes of less than $25,000 a year. More than one in four Kentucky kids now lives in poverty, a level which erases earlier gains.

The youth poverty statistics, says Jones, are troubling on many levels.

"We know that when children find themselves outside of a good home, and a home where you have adults that can care for the child, that the child is at much greater risk."

Jones says Community Action programs have been effective at helping struggling families make ends meet, and that communicating the worthiness of programs, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), is crucial in times of government austerity.

He says that even though cooling-assistance funds didn't come through this summer, the agency is already thinking ahead to the time when temperatures drop.

"We currently are facing funding for this winter that we are very concerned will not get us through the entire LIHEAP season. So, that's a big topic."

The annual Community Action Partnership convention begins Tuesday, August 23, and is to conclude Friday, August 26, with more than 1100 anti-poverty advocates from around the country addressing job creation, housing and homelessness-prevention, Head Start and asset development.


Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY