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Census Report: MO Uninsured and Unemployed Remains High

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September 15, 2011

ST. LOUIS - One in six Missourians is living in poverty, according to a Census Bureau report released this week. That's more than 15 percent of the state's population, and slightly higher than the national average.

The report also found that more than 850,000 Missourians had no health coverage, almost twice as many as a decade ago.

The report highlighted a growing trend among the uninsured: workers who lost employer-sponsored coverage during the recession. But Ruth Ehresman, director for health and budget policy for the Missouri Budget Project, says public investments in safety-net programs such as Medicaid and the state Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have prevented those statistics from getting worse. Without those programs, she says, Missouri's most vulnerable - the children - would suffer more.

"It's very important that we ensure, that when our policymakers both in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., address the budget challenges that we face, that they use a balanced approach. We absolutely cannot cut these critical services, but we have to also include increasing revenue as part of our solution."

Closing tax loopholes for corporations and a streamlined sales tax for Internet sales are ways to increase revenue, Ehresman says.

"There are similar strategies on the federal level that don't necessarily mean raising taxes, but do mean increasing the revenues, so we have adequate resources to help those struggling Missourians."

The report also found that income dropped by almost $8,000 during the past decade, Ehresman says, and is lower than the national average. Missouri ranks 43rd in median income compared with other states.

Additional Census Bureau poverty data will be released next week.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO