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New Missouri Report: Unrealistic Standards May Lead to Rising Poverty Rates

A week before Governor Jay Nixon gives his State of the State address, a coalition that analyzes poverty has released its own report called "State of the State: Poverty in Missouri."
Missourians to End Poverty
Missourians to End Poverty

A week before Governor Jay Nixon gives his State of the State address, a coalition that analyzes poverty has released its own report called "State of the State: Poverty in Missouri."   The Missourians to End Poverty Coalition is urging lawmakers to address the rising poverty rates and what the coalition says are outdated policies. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers has the story.

The report is a snapshot of poverty in Missouri, and it highlights five issues: food, health, education, housing, and economic security.

With over 16% of Missourians now living in poverty, the report takes aim at the problems and offers some solutions.

Jeanette Mott Oxford is the executive director for the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, which is one of the founding members of the coalition that released the report.  

“When we don’t address poverty, we wind up spending money in our budget from another area," said Oxford.

The report shows that employment rates are rising in Missouri. However, many of the new positions are lower-wage, service jobs, not long-term, sustainable, good-paying jobs.  Oxford says another reason Missouri’s poverty is amplified has to do with income guidelines.

“Because, for example, if you are a low wage worker but your ability to work hinges on someone to provide childcare, and right now you can get a subsidized childcare arrangement. By making just a little more money you can lose your access to the childcare subsidy, and now, basically, you have the choice of [either] losing your job because you can’t find childcare, or turn[ing] down the raise,” said Oxford.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the national "War on Poverty." Right now, Missouri has over a million residents living below the poverty line.

Related: See our recent report on efforts to curb poverty in the Springfield area.

Oxford says that some of the original standards for poverty--those set 50 years ago--are still used today.

“The reason it hasn’t been updated is no president wants to proceed over a time period in which the history books record that the number of people living in poverty doubled,” said Oxford.

Aside from the moral issue, the Missourians to End Poverty Coalition holds that the solutions listed in the new report would also have many economic benefits for the state.  It would prevent costly problems from even happening, they contend, in healthcare and education.

“Having honest numbers in all our programs; that would be one of the very best things they [lawmakers] could do,” said Oxford.

For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers.

Official Link to State of the State: Poverty in Missouri