Minn. Sees Increase in Number of Kids Living in Poverty

Updated: 03/29/2013 10:30 PM KSTP.com By: Todd Wilson

Three years ago Dawn Mikkelson got pregnant and it wasn't planned. At the time she had just finished graduate school and was living in New York City.
"So I had done all these things and been on track and then kind of derailed," Mikkelson said.

Her crash meant she had to move back home to White Bear Lake. She got a job but her nine-to-five didn't pay all the bills. Mikkelson ended up getting assistance from MFIP, Minnesota's Family Investment Program.

"That was probably the most difficult," Mikkelson said.

According to the Minnesota State Demographic Center, the number of children living in poverty right now is the highest they have seen in 20 years. And for kids under 5, Kara Arzamendia, of the Children's Defense Fund says it's even higher.

"So we have over 18% of the youngest Minnesotans, those children under 5 living in poverty, so, almost 1 in 5," Arzamendia said.

The next question is why? Arzamendia says the reasons range from the current economic situation, a decrease in the funding for child care assistance to the minimum wage.

"There's a federal minimum wage that we use in Minnesota, it's $7.25 an hour. The federal wage was increased in 2009. Minnesota's state minimum wage is $6.15 an hour, and it's the third lowest minimum wage in the country," Arzamendia said.

She says the Children's Defense Fund is working to change things. They have to bills right now at the capitol to raise the minimum wage to $9.25 and another to raise the monthly MFIP amount for families.

Mikkelson says her determination, the help from family  and MFIP helped to turn things around.

"I feel like I've come out the other end and it's only going up hill from here," Mikkelson said.

The Minnesota State Demographic Center says historically poverty has been a short-term experience for most. For nearly 50% of people the average length is two to four months, on the extreme side 25 or more months.