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Snapshot Shows MO Poverty Down, Still High

Missouri has a much higher rate of families without health insurance than states that expanded Medicaid. (Pranidchakan Boonrom/Pexels)
Missouri has a much higher rate of families without health insurance than states that expanded Medicaid. (Pranidchakan Boonrom/Pexels)
October 18, 2018

ST. LOUIS – A snapshot of poverty in Missouri shows progress, but also a huge number of families struggling to survive.

The Missouri Poverty Snapshot from Empower Missouri and the Coalition on Human Needs shows the portion of low-income folks fell by more than half a percentage point since 2016.

But Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of Empower Missouri, says it also showed nearly 800,000 people living below the poverty line, many of them children.

"Far too many of our children grow up in poverty,” she stresses. “Nearly one out of five children overall, but among children of color it's even higher."

The report found a sizable majority of the poor live in households where one or more people work.

But it also found that more than half of households earning less than $20,000 a year had to spend the majority of their income to pay rent every month.

Deborah Weinstein, executive director of Coalition on Human Needs, says the low national unemployment rate is helping some, but maybe not as much as might be expected.

"With a growing economy, we should expect a lot of progress,” she states. “But the rate of progress is slowing, and that's leaving a lot of people still struggling to make ends meet."

The Missouri legislature didn't vote to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Oxford says that has left more than a quarter million people, mostly the working poor, without health insurance.

"People that work in housekeeping and nursing homes or hospitals,” she points out. “People that work in fast food.

“There are about 300,000 workers in Missouri who don't have health insurance because we didn't expand our Medicaid eligibility."

According to census data, states that expanded Medicaid averaged about 6.5 percent uninsured. Missouri's figure is a little more than 9 percent.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - MO