Thursday, April 30, 2009

Numbers of poor spreading in Illinois

A new report that gauges poverty in Illinois shows big increases in the unemployed and those seeing assistance from food banks. The increases are such that more counties in the state are joining a "poverty watch list" to indicate troubled economic areas.

From the Suburban Chicago News reporters Dave Gathman and Christine Moyer give us the report's details.

Unemployment and poverty rates are so high in Kane County, the county has been placed on a "poverty watch list" by the Heartland Alliance MidAmerica Institute on Poverty.

The alliance, which released its annual report today, offers a snapshot of poverty in Illinois.

Relying largely on 2007 data, the report revealed unemployment rates more than double those reported last year, a significant rise in local food pantry visits and a precipitous drop in median household incomes since 2000.

And, Senior Research Analyst Amy Terpstra said, a lot has changed since 2007 -- for the worse.

Before the recession even started, about 1.5 million people in Illinois were poor, according to Terpstra.

Since then, she said, Heartland Alliance estimates that up to 400,000 more Illinoisans have become poor. The research analyst spoke with service agencies in suburban communities about the growing need for assistance and she said that "they're just floored, not only by the amount of people coming in their doors, but by the type of people..."

"People," Terpstra said, "who have never before needed assistance."

Kane County had the Chicago-area counties' highest unemployment rate in March, at 10.3 percent. The report also found Kane to have the Chicago area's second-greatest number of severely rent-burdened households -- 24.6 percent -- in 2007, behind Chicago.

"We go week to week not knowing whether we'll have enough food on our shelves," Major Ken Nicolai at the Elgin Salvation Army corps said. "The need is tremendous. We're out of rental assistance and out of electric-bill assistance. We had 1,900 grocery orders in March, and so far in April, we've had 2,600."

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