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Poverty Rate in Minnesota Drops, but Family Struggles Persist

PHOTO: There have been improvements, but more than 175,000 children remain in poverty in Minnesota. Photo credit: Geraint Rowland/Flickr.
PHOTO: There have been improvements, but more than 175,000 children remain in poverty in Minnesota. Photo credit: Geraint Rowland/Flickr.
September 19, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show a slight drop in Minnesota's poverty rate, although the financial struggles of many families are still greater than they were before the recession. The poverty rate in the state last year dipped to 11.2 percent, while the rate for kids was 14 percent, says Peggy Flanagan, executive director with Children's Defense-Fund Minnesota.

"More children living in poverty means more children are at risk for adverse affects of poverty and those can have effects on academic, social and health outcomes," says Flanagan.

Minnesota did take a significant step in addressing the issue this year, according to Flanagan, with the approval of an increase in the minimum wage, which will reach $9.50 an hour in 2016.

Another key to helping those working families with their financial footing, explains Flanagan, would be to increase access to Minnesota's child-care assistance program, so parents can go to work or school.

"Currently we have more than 6,000 families who are on the waiting list for the basic, sliding-fee child care assistance program, because the program is underfunded," says Flanagan. "These are families who want to get to work and need reliable child care in order to secure and retain employment."

Flanagan says Minnesota must also focus on erasing racial inequities, as poverty rates are higher for children of color and the face of the state is changing.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN