Clare County 81st in Kids Count ranks

February 27, 2015

By Pat Maurer

Thirty-eight percent of Clare County children live in poverty, according to the Kids Count in Michigan data Book 2015, released February 19.
A release from the Michigan League for Public Policy said, “Too many kids in Michigan remain mired in poverty at a time when policymakers have reduced help for struggling families.”

The report shows a statewide 35 percent increase in child poverty over a six-year period from 2006 to 2012 or 2015, depending on data availability.
In Clare County that data shows a 21 percent increase over the same period. Overall Clare County ranks 81st on the 83 county list.
According to the data book there are 6,335 children between the ages of 0 and 17 in Clare County. Of that number 2,324 or 37.6 percent live “in poverty,” and 2,874 or 63.5 percent are eligible for free or reduced school lunches.

The 2013 unemployment rate in Clare County was 12.1 percent compared to the Michigan rate of 8.8 percent. Median income in Clare County was $32,274 annually compared to the state’s average of 46.79 percent. Thirty five percent of those working, were working for minimum wage in the county and children on Medicaid numbered 3,655 and those families receiving food assistance were 2,522 of 37.7 percent.

“The unraveling of family’s economic security cries out to be addressed by state leaders, but what’s happened is just the opposite of what is needed,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids County in Michigan Project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The release said the state Earned Income Tax Credit which goes to families earning the least was cut 70 percent in 2011. Approval of the May 5 road funding ballot proposal will restore it to 20 percent. Other barriers are hard caps on lifetime limits for cash assistance, fewer weeks of unemployment, restrictions on federally funded food assistance through an asset test and child care subsidies that haven’t kept up with inflation.”

“These are the tools we have to make sure a family in a crisis doesn’t spiral downward and is able to survive. The shredding of these programs is bad policy when it comes to the well-being of Michigan’ children,” Zehnder-Merrell said.

In addition, Michigan in recent years eliminated financial aid grants for adults attending public colleges and universities and slashed adult education to a fraction of where it was a decade ago.

“More than a half-million Michigan kids lived in poverty, defined as $23,600 or less annual for a two-parent family of four,” the release said.
Racial inequity in oral health also needs to be addressed in the 2016 budget. “The Healthy Kids Dental program, which provides additional payment to dentists for children on Medicaid, is in 80 counties including Clare County.” The three not in the program are Wayne, Oakland and Kent, all with large populations of children of color.

The report said “nearly 200,000 children in Michigan live in families investigated for abuse or neglect. In Clare County the number was 1,008 in 2012 with 138 confirmed abuse and/or neglect cases.

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