Michigan poverty rates up, experts weigh in on solutions

In recent years, Michigan’s economy has seen improvement as un-employment rates continue to drop.

But the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show people in many Michigan communities are still struggling.

According to the most recent Census Report from 2016, 13.2% of people living in Jackson County and 20.4% in Ingham County are living below the poverty level.

6-News Veronica Gabriel spoke with local leaders working to tackle the problem.

“Poverty is not due to not working hard enough, it’s due to jobs not paying high enough or due to barriers to getting to those jobs,” says Michigan League for Public Policy Senior Policy Analyst, Peter Ruark.

Ruark says many people living below the poverty line have stable jobs, making minimum wage.

But he says those same people may not have the skill set to earn a promotion or reliable transportation to get to and from a higher paying job.

Issues Joan Jackson Johnson, the Director of Human Relations and Community Services in Lansing also sees.

“The demands on working families with minimum wage income is just unreal,” says Jackson Johnson.

She says, many people get stuck.

Between the cost of housing, healthcare, and everyday necessities, Jackson Johnson says trying to move above the poverty line is almost impossible.

“$10 for us may not seem like much, but $10 for a poor working family, may mean two meals,” adds Jackson Johnson.

Each and every day, Jackson Johnson says she works with families trying to break through that ceiling.. helping those below the poverty line find resources and connect with employers who can help offer that chance.

“As citizens as family members, as neighbors we have to come together, and together we can do a lot,” says Jackson Johnson.

As for Ruark, he says change comes from the State level. He’s pushing for an increase to the earned income tax credit, more opportunities for education, and regular adjustments to the minimum wage.

Poverty isn’t just isolated to urban areas, it’s across the state.

There are many resources out there to help.

If you or someone you know are struggling to make ends meat, head to the “Seen on Six” section of our website.

We welcome thoughts and comments from our viewers. We ask that everyone keep their remarks civil and respectful. Postings that contain profanity, racist, or potentially libelous remarks will be deleted. We will delete any commercial postings, as well.

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