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Athens County poverty rates dwarf national average

Athens County’s last-recorded poverty rate doubles the percentage released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday — the highest in 18 years — and local residents are worried about the area’s financial future.

The nation’s poverty rate increased to 15.1 percent last year, according to the report, up from 14.3 percent in 2009.  This is the third year in a row that there has been an increase in the poverty rate.

There were 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010, the highest number in 52 years of poverty estimates.

Though the county specific numbers have not yet been released, the 2009 Athens County poverty rate is more than double the national number for 2010.  

Nick Claussen, community relations coordinator for the Athens County Job and Family Services, said 32 percent of Athens County residents were living below the poverty rate in 2009.

“The national numbers don’t surprise me,” Claussen said.

The report also stated that national median household income declined 2.3 percent in 2010 to $49,445. Median household income in the Midwest decreased from $49,684 in 2009 to $48,445 in 2010, according to the report.

The Athens County numbers, which will be released later this year, will be similar to the national ones because there has not been economic growth in the area, Claussen said.

Claussen added that many residents have expressed concerns about financial problems, saying more funding is necessary for those living below the poverty line.

“We in Southeastern Ohio have faced a very high poverty and unemployment rate for a long time,” said State Representative Debbie Phillips (D-92nd).

“I have received a lot of calls from people saying they are so close to the edge that one thing, like a health care issue, could push them into financial stress.”

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