More than Numbers

p60-236One in ten Nebraskans currently lives in poverty according to new Census data released last week.

One in ten…One in ten folks driving down I-80 on your commute to work this morning…One in ten parents at your PTA meeting…One in ten people attending your church service on Sunday…

The truth is that the recession is taking a toll on our friends and neighbors in very personal ways, ranging from house foreclosures to difficulties putting dinner on the table.

The number of people struggling is reflective of job losses in the state. The unemployment rate has risen to 5.1 percent from 3.6 percent this time last year. Nebraska lost 7,900 jobs from January to July of this year.

In other words, the cutbacks made in Nebraska businesses and are adding up. And, the impacts of the recession will continue to be seen – poverty rates are predicted to continue to rise as we get more information on the way the recession has affected families.

The impact that the recession is having on our friends, our family, and our state makes it imperative that we take action to create recovery. After all, our friends and neighbors are more than just numbers. Both short term and long term steps will improve quality of life for people struggling in our state:

Short term steps:

1. Increase eligibility for the child care assistance program to allow more parents to stay in the workforce and prevent families from sliding deeper into financial difficulty

2. Take advantage of recovery act funds to alter the state’s unemployment insurance system and allow more part-time and low-income workers to qualify

3. Protect public programs that help families (such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in future budget debates to contribute to family stability

Long term steps:

1. Invest in Adult Education programs to bring the basic skill levels of low-wage workers up and build their capacity to attain better paying jobs

2. Develop career pipelines programs to support workers re-entering the workforce and/or striving to gain the skills and education necessary to attain high wage jobs.

With the right response, the recession can be an opportunity for Nebraska to invest in the great human capital we have here and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities in the future — including building workers with technology and other 21st century job skills, drawing businesses to our state that need our solid workforce, and investing in the health and well being of children and families for long-term stability.

Nebraska Appleseed’s Economic Opportunity Campaign is working to promote ideas such as these www.neappleseed.org/opportunity. Stay tuned for our EOC report promoting these policy options – coming soon!

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