The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office.
The poverty rate increased from 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million people, in 2008.
The share of Americans without health coverage rose from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent — or 50.7 million people — mostly because of the loss of employer-provided health insurance during the recession.
Congress passed a health overhaul this year to address the rising numbers of uninsured people, but its main provisions will not take effect until 2014.
In a statement, President Barack Obama called 2009 a tough year for working families but said it could have been worse.
"Because of the Recovery Act and many other programs providing tax relief and income support to a majority of working families — and especially those most in need — millions of Americans were kept out of poverty last year," Obama said. The new figures come at a politically sensitive time, just weeks before the Nov. 2 congressional elections, when voters restive about high unemployment and the slow pace of economic improvement will decide whether to keep Democrats in power in the House and Senate or turn to Republicans.
The 14.3 percent poverty rate, which covers all ages, was the highest since 1994. It was lower than predicted by many demographers who were bracing for a record gain based on last year's skyrocketing unemployment. Many had expected a range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.
I.E. Children and S eniors Bear Brunt of Poverty Spike In the Inland Empire pummeled by the recession in large due to the housing bust one in five San Bernardino County children’ lives in poverty, compared to one in six or 16% before the recession began. An epidemic of hunger grips Riverside County where 17 percent of children lives in poverty. A growing number of children don’t eat at all when they go home. Children’s health, psychological and social service needs have increased with the recession.
Homelessness among Inland children is growing.
Put in more stark terms, out of 606,325 San Bernardino County children 20 percent live below the federal poverty line. About 8 percent of children lives in extreme poverty, which means their families have an income of less than one-half of the federal poverty threshold.
Census figures show area seniors and African Americans continue to bear the brunt of the recession. Almost half of all seniors living alone are unable to make ends meet.
Government reports show in Riverside County, 47 percent of elders living alone, and 25 percent of couples, fall below the Elder Index.
In San Bernardino, the numbers below the Elder Index are 59 percent of seniors living alone, and 26 percent of couples.
The study shows that for African- American elders in California, the situation is even more dire -- 69.2 percent of these seniors living alone, and 29 percent of couples, have incomes that fall below the Elder Index.
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