Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Times Are Tough: Help If You Can, However You Can

We all read and hear about tough times, but here at the County, we are seeing it every day play out in the lives of our citizens. Recent statistics show just how many people are living on the edge--and how this troubled economy, high gas prices, stagnant wages are pushing many over that edge into real need.

A couple indicators:

1. Our County's August sales tax receipts showed just how much high gas prices are squeezing citizens and the broader economy. (FYI: The County's sale tax is not collected on gas or most food sales, so when people spend more on those items and less on other non-essentials, we feel it immediately). Compared to August 2007, August 2008 sales tax receipts were down 10.8%, or $643,000, from August 2007. Perhaps most alarming, while July to August of 2007 saw a sizeable jump in tax receipts, July to August of 2008 went down. (Overall revenues through August of 2008 are down 1.8% versus the same time last year).

It's important to point out that the Count doesn't see the revenues until three months after the sales occur. So this large drop in revenues coincides with the very time (three months ago) that gas prices were peaking above $4.00. As transportation (and food) take up more of a family's spending dollars, it's clear they are spending far less on other items. They are being squeezed, and it's squeezing the rest of the economy--from small shops and large businesses, to governments like our's.

2. In the last several months, the number of people coming to our County filing for food stamps and Medicaid benefits has increased 12%. That number speaks for itself.

3. Most alarmingly, over the past several months, 35% of the total number of citizens in programs like food stamps and Medicaid are new to the system. These are people who are experiencing these challenges, to this degree, for the first time. This is a startling number, and it is one being experienced throughout the State.

Together, these three statistics paint a bleak picture of the economy's impact on individual lives.

There's a lot we at the County are doing to deal with this , with very limited resources (and these resources are also diminishing, due to state and federal cuts). Whether its identifying and enrolling those who are eligible for Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, veterans benefits, or the economic stimulus package, or even more importantly, linking thousands of people to job training and job opportunities, and reconnecting young people who have dropped out to a second chance at a degree and gainful employment, we are doing the best we can to help those in need.

At the same time, there's also a lot that citizens can do, if they happen to be doing well enough to avoid the squeeze so many others are seeing. Today, for instance, is the kickoff of the United Way drive--and the United Way focuses on some of the very solutions that are most beneficial to help people in need. There are many other ways people can get involved, or make a difference.

If you're able, now more than ever, volunteering and supporting such efforts can change the lives of those who are struggling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank God we have a Democrat majority on the Board during these difficult times.

A note about the efficiency and effectiveness of the United Way. A couple years ago they went through a difficult task of eliminating, even some of the most familiar and entrenched, organizations from their list of recipients due to failing to produce substantial results. It caused a great deal of uproar, challenging our nonprofit social service entities to make best, most use of the money contributed to the United Way. But they performed the difficult task; cut the fat and the inefficient; and identified those organizations pulling the most weight with the least money. It was a service to the contributors and to the community.

United Way is a reliable steward of our money and our time.

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