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U.S. Poverty Rate Down, Unchanged in WV

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The economic growth that is reducing poverty nationally is largely bypassing West Virginia. (The Coalition on Human Needs)
The economic growth that is reducing poverty nationally is largely bypassing West Virginia. (The Coalition on Human Needs)
October 16, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Economic growth is finally reducing poverty in most of the country - but not in West Virginia, according to a new report.

The research, released jointly by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the Coalition on Human Needs, found the U.S. poverty rate has fallen by about 2 percent in the last five years. But Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst with the Center, said the poverty rate here is all but unchanged over the last decade.

"West Virginia is not making progress. Our poverty rate, just like everyone else’s in the country, went up during the recession, but ours has been flat,” O’Leary said. "Nationally we've seen a decline, but in West Virginia, our poverty rate has remained the same."

O'Leary said much of the job creation in the state has been in low-paying positions. He said the state needs to protect programs that support low-income households while also investing more in education and job training.

O'Leary called education the best cure for poverty.

According to Deborah Weinstein, executive director at the Coalition on Human Needs, the reductions in poverty have been spotty - bypassing Maine and West Virginia, and leaving minority communities behind as well. She called that troubling.

"It's also of concern that, even though we've made this progress, we still have more than 40 million people poor in this country,” Weinstein said. "We still have children disproportionately poor."

She added budget and tax plans now being discussed in Congress risk stalling whatever progress has been made.

"President Trump and his allies want to slash the very programs that are helping,” she said. "And amazingly, they would put trillions of dollars into tax cuts for the very richest among us, and corporations."

The President has argued that the high-end tax cuts would spark more economic growth, although Democrats say increasing tax credits for the working poor would do more good.

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, more than half of the proposed Trump tax cuts would go to the top 5 percent of households in the state.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV