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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 25th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 29 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 29

Santa Barbara County's poverty rate is higher than the national average

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

New census data released on Sept. 19 by the American Community Survey showed the poverty rate in Santa Barbara County at 16.3 percent for 2012, while the official poverty rate for the nation is at 15 percent.

The city of Santa Maria’s poverty rate stands even higher than the county’s at 23.5 percent. The census estimates that approximately 67,360 people in the county live below the poverty level, and an estimated 23,370 of those residents live in Santa Maria.

A press release sent out by the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy said the poverty rate in Santa Maria jumped a little more than 6 percent since 2011.

“Future policy changes like the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform have the potential to reduce poverty in the region,” the press release said.

One of the things county officials did to better understand the reasons for poverty within Santa Barbara County was to fund a poverty report starting in 2012. The Board of Supervisors was updated on the report at its Sept. 10 meeting.

The report, “A Snapshot of Poverty in Santa Barbara County,” revealed many unmet needs in the county, such as access to affordable housing, insurance, and a livable wage, as well as large gaps between the haves and the have-nots.

“In the city of Santa Barbara, median household income in the highest income census tract ($128,775) is more than four times that of median household income in the lowest income tract ($28,631), representing a $100,000 disparity,” the report said.

The census data released in September show that more than 78,000 people in the county are uninsured. Approximately 28,400 of those people live in Santa Maria. The American Community Survey also shows the county’s median household income at $61,890. Santa Maria’s median household income is shown as $44,349. Average household income for the county totals $83,192, while for Santa Maria it’s $55,175 and in Santa Barbara it’s $86,262.

One of the big recommendations from the Snapshot on Poverty report was to reallocate some of the county’s resources from South County to North County. Other recommended areas of focus pointed out in the report include addressing workforce development and public transportation needs, expanding the outreach of CalFresh food stamps, creating local tax-credit programs, establishing poverty-reduction goals, and improving the efficiency of social services.