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Margaret Chase Smith Center Report Updates State’s Poverty Data

The University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, in conjunction with the Maine Community Action Association, today released a county-by-county report on poverty in Maine (PDF) revealing that, based on recently released figures from the U.S. Census, 12.9 percent of the state’s population was living in poverty in 2009-2010, up from 12.4 percent in 2007-2008.

The national poverty rate was 15.1 percent in 2009-2010. The report also notes that the number of children and older adults living in poverty is high, with the number of seniors in poverty above national averages, and 18.2 percent of children living in poverty. In 2011, the report notes that more than 45 percent of Maine schoolchildren are eligible for free and reduced-cost school lunches, with the figure close to 60 percent in some counties.

“The new county-level figures demonstrate clearly that poverty in Maine is a statewide challenge,” writes Pat Kosma, president of the Community Action Association – for whom the report was written – in the report’s forward. “While the urban areas of Portland, Lewiston-Auburn, and Bangor have significant low-income populations, poverty is not simply an urban issue.”

Washington County has the highest poverty rate in the state at 19.4 percent, followed by Somerset at 18.6 percent and Piscataquis at 16.6 percent, according to the report.

“This suggests that state policymakers should consider the unique needs of those in rural areas as it implements programs for low-income residents,” Kosma says.

Ann Acheson, a Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center research associate who co-authored the report, joined the Maine Community Action Association today to release the report at the State House in Augusta.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

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