Poverty Improves Slightly in AZ, But Needed Programs Threatened
PHOENIX - More than 1 million people in Arizona live below the poverty line, according to a new report from the Coalition on Human Needs.
In 2016, Arizona's poverty rate stood at 16.4 percent - down one percentage point from the year before, but almost 2.5 percentage points above the national rate, according to the latest census numbers.
Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association, which co-sponsored the report, said more people are working and putting in more hours - but they can't support a family on the state minimum wage.
"They're still unable to make ends meet; $10.10 an hour is simply not sufficient to pay all your bills," she said. "So, we're really interested in pursuing living wages in the state - which in Maricopa County, as an example, are $14.73."
The report found that 20 percent of jobs in the state are in low-wage fields, and 1 million more Arizonans, including almost 300,000 children, have been lifted above the poverty line by safety-net programs such as SNAP food assistance, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, housing assistance, AHCCCS and low-income and child-care tax credits. However, Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, pointed out that the Republican budget that just passed the Senate calls for massive cuts to the safety net.
"Here's the big problem," she said. "Instead of building on the progress we're finally starting to make, President Trump and his allies in Congress want to slash the very programs that are helping. And amazingly, they would put trillions of dollars into tax cuts for the very richest among us, and corporations."
The poverty rate in Cochise, Graham and Mohave counties actually ticked upward. The report also found that, nationwide, 18 percent of children are considered poor, but that number jumps to almost a quarter for Latino kids and 30 percent for African-American youngsters.
The report is online at chn.org.