Washington is one of only 3 states with Increased Poverty
Our nation’s most recent recession ended in 2009, and we have seen substantial improvements in employment and healthcare coverage nationwide. In 2013, unemployment rates dropped to 7.4% from 9.3% in 2009 and the number of uninsured adults dropped to 22.3% as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The 2013 census found that only 3 states showed an increase in poverty numbers, and Washington is among them. The census found that 14.1% (967,282 people) of Washington residents live in poverty, an increase of over 50,000 people from the previous year. The data shows that the economic recovery seen throughout the nation is not reaching all income levels.
In fact, while segments of our community are thriving in the post-recession prosperity, inequality is increasing as well. The census showed that earnings in middle and low-income brackets remained stagnant, while the richest 5% saw a 6% increase. The wealthiest among us are thriving, while families in need continue to struggle to ensure basic needs.
Much like Community Action Agencies, we as a community are poised to respond to the changing context and pressing issues with flexibility and integrity. The census findings serve as a call to action to lawmakers, agencies like MDC, and community members alike. Policy-makers at the state and federal level can support equitable economic growth by pushing for increased minimum wages and tax rebates for working families. MDC, and community action agencies throughout the state, can continue to expand services in employment, education and financial assistance to those in need. And as a community, we can expand and strengthen these programs through contributions, advocacy and dialogue. We can refuse to accept a widening income gap as an indicator of widespread recovery.
A local economy only recovers when we all recover. As long as living costs continue to rise, but incomes stagnate, responsible and sustainable growth will not be seen. As a community of advocates and change-makers, we can create a landscape in Washington that ensures economic prosperity for all.
– Mark Pereboom, TPCAHC President, MDC CEO