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Poverty in Wisconsin Declining: Good News, Bad News


Wednesday, November 8, 2017   

MILWAUKEE – Wisconsin is finally seeing poverty rates move downward, according to a new report from the Coalition on Human Needs and 9 to 5 Wisconsin.

That's the good news. The bad news, according to the authors of the report, is that the programs that drove sustained economic gains over the past several years are on the chopping block in Washington.

Linda Garcia Barnard, national operations director for 9 to 5 Wisconsin, a women’s advocacy group, says proposed cuts to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, and tax credits for lower income families, present a threat.

"And we need to be clear with folks that we're not just talking about the very low income families in Wisconsin,” she stresses. “Cuts to these critical programs will drastically impact middle class wage earners as well, many of whom are only a check or two away from needing help themselves."

The report shows the state's poverty rate at 11.8 percent in 2016, down from 12.1 percent in 2015, and 13.2 percent in 2014.

Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, says the nation has seen the biggest two-year drop in poverty since 1969. But she warns that progress on lowering poverty rates may come to an end.

"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," she states.

Garcia Barnard says the report shows 661,500 Wisconsinites living in poverty who rely on programs such as SNAP and low-income tax credits to survive. She sees hard-working, low-income families struggling to stay afloat.

"There is a lot of effort to move forward and make things better for their families, but if the career ladders or insufficient leave policies don't exist, it becomes a trap for many families, not to have that opportunity to move up and out of poverty," she states.

According to the report, since 2009, anti-poverty programs have lifted 830,000 Wisconsinites, including 180,000 children, out of poverty.

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