poverty

USDA

Kentucky and West Virginia have recently been added to a federal pilot program to allow food stamp recipients to purchase groceries online, and Ohio Valley anti-hunger advocates say it’s a good move to improve food accessibility amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot program lets those receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to make grocery purchases online. The program began in New York in April, 2019, but many states including Kentucky and West Virginia have just recently joined the program to let SNAP recipients buy food with less face-to-face interaction. 

 


Elizabethtown Police Department

It’s an increasingly familiar sight at busy intersections and shopping center entryways. A person or persons positioned on the side of the road often displaying a handmade sign asking for money or food. 

Begging for money or goods in a public space is legal in Kentucky. A 2017 state Supreme Court ruling declared that panhandling is free speech protected by the First Amendment. With enforcement powers stripped, authorities are left to manage the public safety hazard created by panhandlers and well-meaning citizens.

While panhandling is not against the law in Kentucky, panhandlers and well-intentioned citizens can pose a public safety hazard in the state’s roadways.


Wikimedia Commons

A new report finds the Ohio Valley has some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. The study comes from the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions, an initiative to eliminate or alleviate poverty through action-based research. 

The “Index of Deep Disadvantage” combines measures of income, health outcomes, and social mobility, or the factors affecting someone’s ability to improve their lot in life.

Two Ohio cities, Cleveland and Dayton, are on the list of the 100 most deeply disadvantaged communities. Other Ohio Valley communities on the list are rural counties: McCreary, Bell, Clay, Wolfe, Breathitt, Harlan, Lee, and Owsley Counties in Kentucky, and McDowell County in West Virginia. The majority of these communities are located in Appalachia.


Unsplash / Jon Tyson

Groups across Kentucky are preparing to participate in the nationwide count of the homeless that takes place at the end of January. In advance of the count, several training sessions are being offered during the week of Jan. 6 to 10.

The Kentucky Housing Corporation coordinates the state’s count of the homeless, called K-Count, that will be held this year on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

It’s part of the nationwide count of the homeless managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tori Henninger is executive director of Barren River Area Safe Space, or BRASS, which provides services for victims of domestic violence in a 10-county region in southern Kentucky.  

Henninger says many individuals, especially women, become homeless as a result of domestic violence, so BRASS is one of several organizations offering training to people who want to take part in the K-Count.


Thinkstock

A lawmaker from Hardin County is hoping Kentucky follows the example of Tennessee and other states that don’t impose an income tax on its residents.

Supporters say transitioning away from an income tax and increasing the state’s sales tax would make Kentucky more attractive to businesses.

Opponents say it would be a boon to the wealthy, while hurting low-income and vulnerable residents.

The effort to move Kentucky away from relying on income tax gained steam in 2018. That’s when Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed into law a massive overhaul of the state’s tax code.


Feeding Kentucky

A new report shows the 2019 Summer Food Service Program served 3.2 million meals to Kentucky children. Those meals were served at schools, in buses converted to mobile cafés, and sometimes at tables set up in someone’s yard.

The 2019 KY Kids Eat Summer Success Report by Feeding Kentucky shows summer meals for children increased by 10 percent over the previous season. 

That expansion of meals served to children has been a trend, with double-digit increases every year during the past five years. 

One reason for the increase is an expansion of mobile feeding programs that bring meals to children in rural areas. 


Flickr Creative Commons Mickangel

A new report ranks Kentucky in the top 20 for states with the most underprivileged children.

The commonwealth has the highest percentage of maltreated children, with Indiana ranked second in that category. 

 

Overall, the Hoosier state is ranked ninth for states with the most underprivileged children, and Tennessee is 20th. 


USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week a proposal to tighten the rules on who qualifies for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). USDA estimates more than three million people across the country would lose SNAP benefits in an effort to prevent fraud. Anti-hunger advocates in the Ohio Valley say the more than two million people in the region who use the benefits would be impacted.

The department wants to change what they call “broad-based categorical eligibility” in the SNAP program. The regulation allows people that don’t have a low enough income to qualify for food stamps to get them in other ways. For example, people can also qualify if they receive assistance from other federal programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families


Becca Schimmel

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current $7.25 rate, which has not changed in a decade. The bill is unlikely to clear the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he will not take it up.

But the vote adds energy to election-season debate about a living wage, an issue that resonates with tens of thousands in the Ohio Valley, where low-wage jobs have been taking the place of higher-earning ones lost to declines in the mining and manufacturing sectors.


Appalachian Regional Commission

An annual report from the Appalachian Regional Commission shows that while Appalachia is seeing some economic improvement, the heart of the region and its coal-producing communities are still struggling. Several counties in the Ohio Valley are moving in a negative direction in this year’s report. 

The ARC report evaluates the Appalachian region using county-level data on unemployment, per capita market income, and poverty. Counties are rated on a scale with five tiers. At the low end are those “economically distressed,” or those ranking among the worst 10 percent of county economies in the country. At the high end is “attainment,” for those with thriving economies on par with the nation’s top performing places. In between are counties labeled “at risk,” “transitional,” or “competitive.”


Appalachian Regional Commission

A new report from the Appalachian Regional Commission shows that Central Appalachia lags behind other parts of the region in employment, household income, and other key measures.

The data come from the American Community Survey, which is similar to the census and tracks county-level data over five-year periods. Researchers often use the survey to understand trends over time.

The Appalachian Regional Commission, which analyzed the ACS data, separated Appalachia into five subregions. In many key metrics, Central Appalachia, which includes parts of Kentucky and West Virginia, lagged behind other subregions.


Flickr Creative Commons Zach Frailey

Fewer Kentucky children are living in poverty now compared to 2017. That’s according to the new Kentucky Youth Advocates County Data Book, which looks at 17 measures of child well-being. The percentage of children living in poverty improved in 93 out of 120 counties.

 

Despite the improvements, nearly one in four Kentucky kids still live in poverty. On the bright side, Kentucky saw high school graduation rates increase in 119 of 167 school districts, and more children throughout the state have health insurance. Terry Brooks, Executive Director with Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the Commonwealth has the highest rate of children living in kinship care and the second highest rate of children with parents who are incarcerated.

Alexandra Kanik

Jim Thacker is frustrated.

The spokesperson for the Madison County, Kentucky, Health Department said there is a real threat of a Hepatitis A outbreak at the detention center right down the road in Richmond.

Built to house about 240 inmates, it holds more than 400. 

“It’s like a petri dish, they are packed so close together,” he said.

The majority of the Madison County inmates are in jail on drug charges, and health officials say the homeless and people with substance abuse disorders are most vulnerable to Hep A infection in this outbreak.


Steve Pavey, Hope In Focus

Anti-poverty activists say they will continue a campaign of demonstrations and civil disobedience throughout the Ohio Valley despite arrests at some events and being blocked from Kentucky’s capitol building.

The Poor People’s Campaign has rallied in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia and campaign leaders returned to Kentucky Wednesday after the group was denied access at earlier demonstrations.


Ryland Barton

About 100 protesters from an anti-poverty group crowded the entryway to the Kentucky Capitol Monday after state officials restricted the group’s access to the building.

Kentucky State Police say they will only allow two protesters at a time from the Poor People’s Campaign to enter the Capitol building following a series of escalating protests in recent weeks.

Tayna Fogle, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, called the restrictions “sad and hurtful.”

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