|By Bob Weaver|
While Economic growth is reducing poverty in most of the USA, poverty rates are increasing in West Virginia, according to
the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the Coalition on Human Needs.
Poverty rates have been high in Calhoun County and about half of West Virginia counties for years.
The current poverty rate for children in Calhoun is 30%, according to Kids Count.
The research says that the USA poverty rate has fallen by about 2 percent in the last five years, but in West Virginia it has increased.
Only 3.4 percent of West Virginians live in prosperous communities, one of the largest gaps between prosperous and distressed populations the country, the state still holding to natural extractables to bolster its economy.
The state's most distressed counties include Calhoun, Roane, Boone, Braxton, Clay, Gilmer, Lincoln, Loga, McDowell, Mingo, Webster and Wyoming.
Sean O'Leary, senior policy analyst with the Center, said the poverty rate is all but unchanged over the last decade in the Mountain State.
"West Virginia is not making progress. Our poverty rate, just like everyone else's in the country, went up during the recession, but ours has been flat," O'Leary said.
"Nationally we've seen a decline, but in West Virginia, our poverty rate has remained the same."
O'Leary said much of the job creation in the state has been in low-paying positions. Walmart is the state's largest employer.
He said the state needs to protect programs that support low-income households while also investing more in education and job training.
According to Deborah Weinstein, executive director at the Coalition on Human Needs, the reductions in poverty have been spotty - bypassing Maine and West Virginia, and leaving minority communities behind as well.
"It's also of concern that, even though we've made this progress, we still have more than 40 million people poor in this country," Weinstein said.
"We still have children disproportionately poor," she said.
Budget and tax plans now being discussed in Congress risk stalling whatever progress has been made.
"President Trump and his allies want to slash the very programs that are helping," she said. "And amazingly, they would put trillions of dollars into tax cuts for the very richest among us, and corporations, Weinstein said."
The President has argued that the high-end tax cuts would spark more economic growth, although Democrats say increasing tax credits for the working poor would do more good.
According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, more than half of the proposed Trump tax cuts would go to the top 5 percent of households in the state.