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Report: Poverty Continues to Stall Progress on WV Kids' Well-Being

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Friday, June 25, 2021   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- New survey data offer a clear picture of how West Virginia kids and families are faring.

The Mountain State ranks 44th in the nation for overall child wellbeing, and 46th for economic wellbeing, according to the 2021 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Tricia Kingery, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, said poverty is the primary underlying factor which contributes to housing instability, food insecurity and poor mental health.

She pointed out 70,000 kids live in poverty in the state, adding it's important to track the numbers to best determine where to direct resources.

"When our families and communities are strong and supportive, kids do better," Kingery asserted. "So, using the data to drive decisions to help children should be our focus, to make West Virginia a great place to live for those of all ages."

West Virginia is one of 13 states at the bottom rankings for several indicators, including children whose parents lack secure employment, teens not in school or working, households that reported not having enough to eat, and households with "slight or no confidence" they'd be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, explained both state and federal Child Tax Credit expansions are critical to eliminating structural inequities in the tax code that can keep families in poverty.

She stressed in West Virginia alone, expanding the Child Tax Credit will likely benefit about 400,000 children.

"We are excited and grateful that lawmakers passed the expansion, and we're calling on them to make that expansion permanent," Boissiere urged. "We'd like to ensure that we don't have the largest-ever one-year reduction in the number of children who live in poverty, followed immediately by the largest ever one-year increase."

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the poorest 20% of West Virginia families with children will receive around $4,700, which is six times the current tax-credit amount.

Boissiere added more than half of Black children historically have been ineligible for the full Child Tax Credit because their household incomes are too low, compared with 25% of white children.

Disclosure: Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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