The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 14, 2011

Report shows poverty rate in West Virginia on the rise

By Taylor Kuykendall
Register-Herald Reporter

— In the past two years, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, the percentage of West Virginians in poverty rose from 15.8 percent to 16.9 percent.

In light of the data, released Wednesday, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy issued a news release calling for policy solutions.

“Instead of debating whether to drug test our low-income state residents, policymakers need to put forth real solutions to combat the state’s persistently high poverty rates,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Are we making child care affordable? Are we helping low-income, working families with tax credits like the state Earned Income Tax Credit? Are we putting workers back to work?”

According to the data, about one in five West Virginia children live in poverty.

The data showed an increase in the number of West Virginians covered by health insurance and a decline in employer-based coverage. The overall increase was primarily based on an increase in government-funded health care programs.

“West Virginia’s decline in employer-based insurance and the protective role of Medicaid illustrate the critical importance of implementing the Affordable Care Act,” said Renate Pore, health policy director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Once the law goes into effect in 2014, an estimated 184,000 West Virginians will gain coverage under Medicaid or through health insurance exchanges.”

The percentage of Americans as a whole living in poverty also increased. Nationwide, about 46.2 million people, or about 15.1 percent, live in poverty, the highest level in more than 50 years.

The poverty line for a family of four was defined as an income of $22,113.

Median household incomes also declined 2.3 percent in 2010 to $49,400 nationally. In West Virginia, the median income was $42,839. 

— E-mail: tkuykendall@register-herald.com