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West Virigina Slipping in Terms of Poverty, Kids' Well-Being

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More than one in four West Virginia children lives in poverty, and a new Kids Count survey says their families have been passed up by the economic recovery. Photo courtesy Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
More than one in four West Virginia children lives in poverty, and a new Kids Count survey says their families have been passed up by the economic recovery. Photo courtesy Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
 By Dan HeymanContact
July 21, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia's children are faring worse, and the state's ranking on key measures of caring for them has fallen, according to the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT report.

The annual survey found 27 percent of West Virginia children live below the federal poverty line, up from 15 percent during the lowest ebb of the Great Recession.

Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, says too many working poor families have been left behind – even as the economy has turned around.

"There's persistent poverty despite the economic recovery," says Hale. "We have 13,000 more children living in poverty. This recovery has passed them by."

In terms of how well West Virginia kids are doing, the survey says the state's overall ranking has fallen six spots to 43rd place. Hale says the key to helping children is supporting families as they try to reach economic security.

According to West Virginia KIDS COUNT, several proven policies help working families get out of poverty. Hale says more affordable child care and a state Earned Income Tax Credit would both help, as would paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage. She says it's simply a matter of getting more resources into the hands of struggling parents.

"Most of the children in poverty live in families who are working, and they cannot make enough money," she says. "They have problems with food, they have problems with child care. All these solutions are designed to change that."

Hale says these policies have worked in other places, in part because they're designed to reward individuals who work, and make it easier for them to support their families while doing so.

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