Poverty rises in Connecticut

The percentage of Connecticut residents living in poverty rose in 2011.

The American Community Survey, an annual report released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that last year 10.9 percent of Connecticut residents earned incomes below the federal poverty line, up from 10.1 percent in 2010. The increase is statistically significant, according to Connecticut Voices for Children, an independent research and advocacy organization that analyzes and tracks the ACS survey each year. Nationally, the poverty rate is 15.9 percent, above Connecticut’s overall rate, but far below that of New Haven, where 30.1 percent of residents fell below the federal poverty line in 2011.

“We need to redouble our efforts to reverse these damaging trends by raising the floor for low-wage jobs through a minimum wage increase and avoiding state budget cuts that could plunge more children and families into poverty,” said Jamey Bell, the executive director at Connecticut Voices for Children, in a Sept. 20 press release.

The report highlighted the poverty rate among children and families, which proved a particularly weak point for Connecticut this year. The child poverty rate in the state rose to 14.9 percent in 2011 from 12.8 percent in 2010, the fifth-sharpest increase of any state. In New Haven, 41.4 percent of residents under the age of 18 were below the federal poverty level in 2011. City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said the city is taking proactive steps to ensure that children receive proper nutrition despite the financial difficulties many face.

“New Haven Public Schools provide universal free lunches and breakfasts to students regardless of their income level in an effort to assure that all children have access to healthy and nutritious food,” Benton said, adding that education, housing and prenatal health initiatives are other ways the city is dealing with child poverty.

Ward 22 Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison, meanwhile, said the poverty statistics highlight the importance of the city’s attempts to boost employment prospects for residents through New Haven Hires, a new “jobs pipeline” program.

“How do you train people and assess people in their needs, train them, and connect them to a good job? Because so often, there are programs in the community that will train a person, at the end of the training give them a certificate, and the only thing the certificate really is good for is to be a placemat,” Morrison said. “The whole purpose of that is really connecting to actual jobs.”

Connecticut has a median household income of $65,753, the fourth-highest of any state. New Haven, however, has a median household income of only $33,526. Of Connecticut’s eight largest cities, only Hartford’s is lower.

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