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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Families struggle to make it in Howard County

 Recently the Census Bureau reported the poverty rate in the United States. As reported in Bloomberg News, "rate rose to the highest level in almost two decades and household income fell in 2010, underscoring the lingering impact of the worst economic slump in seven decades. Data released by the Census Bureau today showed the proportion of people living in poverty climbed to 15.1 percent last year from 14.3 percent in 2009 and median household income declined 2.3 percent."

Has Howard County escaped this reality?  This past Wednesday the Association of Community Services of Howard County(ACS) released a report, 2011 Self Sufficiency Index, prepared by the Policy Analysis Center that identified how the recession has impacted income vulnerable families in Howard County.  We all know that the perception of many people living in Howard County is that poverty, hunger and homelessness are issues we read about as relevant for Baltimore and other areas of Maryland but not in our County.  The report shows in graphic manner how many families in Howard County have been pushed over the edge since the current recession started in 2007-2008. Some of the findings are:
1) Since 2007 there has been a 147 percent increase food bank grants and an increase in individuals using the food bank from 6,478 in 2007 to 16,011 in 2011.
2) Since 2007 the number of school children in Howard County schools receiving free breakfast and lunch has increased by 57 percent.
3)Howard County General Hospital has an 39 percent increase in uncompensated care provided since 2007.
4) Home Energy grants have increased by 129% since 2007.
5) Since 2009 there has been a 45 percent increase in the number of eviction prevention grants given out
6) Since 2007 the waiting list for Head Start has almost doubled from 40 to 75.
7) Since 2007 the number of individuals receiving food stamps (SNAP) has increased by 130%

The study shows that thousands of Howard County families live in very tenuous circumstances and are vulnerable to any changes in the economy.  For most families the past 4 years has been a recession but for some Howard County families it has been a depression. 

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