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Report: Urban centers still struggle with poverty

Report: Urban centers still struggle with poverty

Poverty rates among inner city populations in the Capital Region continue to dwarf those witnesse

Poverty rates among inner city populations in the Capital Region continue to dwarf those witnessed in their surrounding counties, according to a new study released by the New York State Community Action Association on Wednesday.

The statewide report found that more than 2.6 million New Yorkers —including 852,000 children — are living in poverty. The state’s overall poverty rate was at 13.8 percent, a figure that is slightly higher than the national average of 13.2 percent.

The report also found that nearly half of all families in poverty are headed by single women with children. The state’s impoverished population is disproportionately represented by minorities — nearly one in five blacks and one in four Latinos are listed as living in poverty.

The report identifies the number of individuals living in households with incomes at or below the federal poverty line. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists those households with four members and annual income of $22,050 or less as being at or beneath the poverty line.

In general, cities around the Capital Region registered the highest poverty rates. More than one in five people in Albany, Schenectady and Troy are listed as living in poverty, according to the report.

But these rates are not reflective of the poverty gauged in county populations. For instance, about 10 percent of Schenectady County’s population is considered at the poverty level, which is half the rate of poor identified within the city.

Likewise, Albany County’s 12 percent rate of poverty among its 298,631 residents is dwarfed by the rate in the capital. More than a quarter of Albany’s 90,000 residents live in poverty, according to the report.

Among the four Capital Region cities included in the report, Saratoga Springs was the only one with a poverty rate that is lower than both the state and national averages. Still, the Spa City’s 8.9 percent rate of poverty exceeds the county average of 6. 9 percent.

The figures didn’t come as a surprise to local advocates and the leaders of support agencies aiding the impoverished. Kathy Cloutier, the executive director of the Albany Community Action Partnership, said the figures show the decline that continues in upstate’s densely urban areas.

“It’s a staggering number, absolutely,” she said of Albany’s poverty rate. “But I’m not surprised.”

Cloutier said many of the impoverished people her agency serves are working in the city. But the combination of low wages and higher cost of housing forces many of them to seek assistance.

“Most are working in minimum wage jobs, and that’s just not enough to support a family,” she said.

The figures on poverty also didn’t shock Deb Shimpf, the executive director of the Schenectady Community Action Program. She was relieved to see that the city’s population of people in poverty remained static, despite the continued economic woes.

However, Shimpf fears this could change, as funding from the federal economic stimulus bill starts to expire. She credits stimulus funding for lessening the brunt of the recession on the city residents at risk of dropping beneath the poverty level.

“We’re worried about what will happen if the stimulus funding ends later this year,” she said.

Denis Wilson, the executive director of the Fulmont Community Action, also credits stimulus funding for helping to keep the poverty rates down in Fulton and Montgomery counties. Montgomery County was at the state average for poverty, while Fulton County registered slightly higher.

Still, Wilson said a growing number of people are relying upon Fulmont for help. He said the agency’s four food pantries are now serving more people than ever, something that indicates more residents are feeling a pinch from the poor economy.

“That’s a statistic for us,” he said. “People who never needed assistance are coming to us for our food pantries.”

Ladan Alomar, the director of Centro Civico in Amsterdam, said the report also accurately reflects the plight of minorities in trying to rise above the poverty level. In Montgomery County, nearly a third of the Hispanic population is living in poverty, according to the report.

“This is very unfortunate,” she said. “But obviously, so much more work needs to be done in every aspect to reverse this.”

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