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Colorado Poverty Below National Average, But Challenges Remain

Just 4 percent of Colorado kids lack health coverage, down from 14 percent in 2008. (Getty Images)
Just 4 percent of Colorado kids lack health coverage, down from 14 percent in 2008. (Getty Images)
September 18, 2017

DENVER – The percentage of people living below the federal poverty level in Colorado continues to be below the national average, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

And, the state's child poverty rate dropped to just over 13 percent in 2016, down from nearly 15 percent the previous year, the lowest it's been since 2003.

Bridget Kaminetsky, the lead economic security organizer with the group 9 to 5 Colorado, says overall there's good news in the bureau's most recent American Community Survey.

"Colorado and the country are experiencing very meaningful economic gains," she boasts. "Average household in Colorado has increased their wealth and we're seeing poverty decrease."

The new stats show Colorado's median household income - meaning half of households earn more and half earn less - is now $65,000.

But Kaminetsy notes that in many parts of the state, a lot of those earnings are being soaked up by rising housing costs. The median price of a home in Colorado is almost $110,000 higher than the national figure.

Some 160,000 Colorado kids were living in poverty in 2016, about 16,000 fewer than in 2015. Asian, black and Hispanic kids saw the biggest declines, but are still far more likely to experience poverty than white kids. Kaminetsky says this progress could be stunted if proposed cuts to proven anti-poverty measures including SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit move forward.

"These gains could be easily reversed," she laments. "As of right now, policies have been proposed by the Trump administration and Congress that would cut vital programs that help Colorado families afford the basics."

The bureau found Colorado's uninsured rate for kids is basically holding at four percent, meaning some 50,000 children in the state still lack coverage. In 2008, before the Affordable Care Act was implemented, Colorado's uninsured rate for kids was 14 percent.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO