Rising Child Poverty Rates Mean More Vermonters are Struggling to Make Ends Meet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      September 30, 2009

CONTACT: Carlen Finn, Voices for Vermont’s Children

(802) 229-6377; carlenf@voicesforvtkids.org

Rising Child Poverty Rates Mean More Vermonters are Struggling to Make Ends Meet

New Census Data Highlight the Need to Implement

the Vermont Child Poverty Council’s Recommendations

“If there’s one thing Vermonters can agree on, it’s that all children deserve the same opportunities in life,” says Carlen Finn, Executive Director of Voices for Vermont’s Children and member of the Vermont Child Poverty Council.   But new Census data show that prospects for thousands of Vermont children were grim even before the recession hit.  In 2008, 1,000 more Vermont children fell into poverty as the recession began.

As troubling as this number is, the reality today is almost certainly worse. The Census data do not cover 2009, and unemployment has been rising sharply this year. In Vermont, the unemployment rate rose from 4.6 percent in July 2008 to 6.9 percent in July 2009.  Since January 2009, Vermont has experienced eight months at 6.8 percent or higher – the longest stretch of high unemployment in the state since the early 1980’s.

Economists tell us that poverty increases with rising joblessness, and the increase is sharper for vulnerable groups like children.  According to the Census data, 13.2 percent of Vermont’s children were poor in 2008. That means that before the recession hit over 17,000  of our state’s children lived in families that struggled to make ends meet on a daily basis, despite the fact that the majority of them had a head of household who was working.

“Poverty deprives children and their families of basic necessities that allow young people to grow and thrive.  Poverty forces families to face difficult trade-offs, such as whether to pay for food or heat in the winter,” explains Rep. Ann Pugh, Co-Chair of the Vermont Child Poverty Council and Chair of the House Human Services Committee.

Earlier this year, the Vermont Child Poverty Council issued a series of recommendations to cut child poverty in half by 2017 (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/workgroups/ChildPoverty/). The new Census data illustrate that if we hope to attain our goal of reducing child poverty, we need to act now to ensure we have a strong safety net that helps working families and their children move out of poverty and into a more economically secure position.

“As more Vermont children grow up in conditions that make it difficult for them to thrive, the more urgent our need to act becomes,” says Senator Doug Racine, Co-Chair of the Vermont Child Poverty Council and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.

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