A report from the U.S. Census Bureau last week quantified the depth of the economic plight that plagues the nation. According to the bureau, 15.1 percent of Americans (or 46.2 million) lived in poverty last year.
Poverty, defined as a family of four that survives on less than $22,314 each year or a single person earning less than $11,139, claimed 3 million more individuals in 2010 than in 2009. Indeed, 2010 marked the fourth consecutive annual increase in poverty. And more Americans lived in poverty last year than in any other year since the bureau began to publish poverty estimates 52 years ago.
Many Georgia families struggled last year, as unemployment figures remained above the national average. Consequently, the state placed high on the bureau’s 2010 poverty index. Only two states (Mississippi and Louisiana) and the District of Columbia had a higher poverty rate than Georgia.
While the bureau has not yet reported 2010 poverty figures at the county level, there are indications that many DeKalb County residents continue to struggle financially.
According to figures from the Georgia Department of Human Services, a monthly average of 102,640 DeKalb residents received food stamps in fiscal year 2010. That figure represents an increase of 13,665 individuals compared to fiscal year 2009. The number of DeKalb residents relying on food stamps has increased each fiscal year since 2005, when 63,922 county residents needed assistance to purchase food—an increase of more than 38,000 individuals over the five-year period.
In 2009, more than 122,000 DeKalb residents lived below the poverty level. Perhaps most troublesome is that nearly 25 percent of those younger than 18 years old in DeKalb (or 43,482 minors) lived in poverty in 2009.
Many analysts say that high poverty rates will continue until significant numbers of the unemployed get back to work. According to the bureau’s report, median household income in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline compared to the 2009 median.
In Georgia, joblessness continues to remain high at 10.2 percent, well above the 9.1 percent national average. This continues to put a strain on the available resources to help families cope with difficult times.
There is perhaps a glimmer of hope for DeKalb residents struggling to make ends meet. The Georgia Department of Labor reported this month that initial unemployment insurance claims declined in August to 3,847 from 3,958 in July, that is a decrease of 111 new claims last month and 22.9 percent fewer than August 2009.