New York State Exposed: Alarming child poverty rates

Posted at: 10/17/2013 6:32 AM
Updated at: 10/18/2013 9:03 AM
By: Joangel Concepcion

Some may find it unbelievable, but it's happening in the Rochester area. One in four children in Monroe County are living in poverty. Rochester is ranked seventh in the nation in child poverty. But with billions of taxpayer's dollars being spent on public assistance every year, how is that even possible? What is causing such a terrible statistic?

For Ed and Mary, every day without work is another day full of frustration.

Ed said, “I've got 18 years of experience. The economy is horrible right now. It's just ridiculous. In the last two and a half years, I've had two interviews.”

They are among thousands of families in Monroe County living in poverty, raising their children in undesirable conditions. They are finding it is getting harder to stretch a dollar. 

Mary said, “The money that you do get from the Department of Social Services to help you out is not enough to make it through actually. It's a big help, but it's not enough to make ends meet. With the high prices, it's just not enough. The money they give us, doesn't even give me enough to buy enough toothpaste, toilet paper, toiletries. What do we do?”

Mary and Ed say they have been applying for job, but work just isn't available. They don't want to live like this. They don't want their daughter growing up in these conditions, relying on shelters to get by..

So what is the government doing to help? Last year, in Monroe County, with public assistance, food stamps and Medicare combined, the government spent more than $1.6 billion helping local families in need. But now that times are changing, is it enough? News10NBC's Joangel Concepcion took that question to Assemblyman Joe Morelle. 

Joangel Concepcion asked, “Is there a bill that can be proposed that can maybe increase the amount of money you're giving to these families? Could that be a possibility?”

Assemblyman Joe Morelle said, “Sure, certainly, I think the governor will propose a budget in January and the question, whether or not, if we can increase aid levels to people in poverty is something that the governor will have to propose and the legislature will deal with.”

Local families need help immediately and that's why News10NBC didn't stop pressing this issue. We took our tough questions to Lt. Governor Bob Duffy. He agreed to sit down with me to discuss all this.

Lt. Governor Bob Duffy said, “ Having been a mayor in Rochester, I think it's a fact that I don't think anyone really wants to acknowledge. I think it's something that's been here for many, many years. In this day and age, I think it's an embarrassment.”

Concepcion said, “What is it about Rochester? What is it about our area that doesn't seem to be working?”

Lt. Governor Duffy said, “I can't point to one exact reason why we are ranked where we are, but I think there's a variety of things. Obviously, the manufacturing jobs and the economic impact that hit Rochester for many years going back well before the 2008 recession. Well before that, some of the decline in manufacturing here. The educational outcomes, when you have graduation rates that are low and you have young people coming out that don't have education and don't go into the work force. Not one thing is going to change the current landscape. It's not about throwing more money at it. I think it's taking a step back and seeing what works and using those things that really do work.”

Concepcion said, “The cost of food is rising. The cost of living is going up. Is there any chance that the public assistance will also go up?”

Lt. Governor Duffy said, “I think this is something that could be evaluated. I think there's people far beyond me who should look at this. I know there is a lot of expertise here in the state that could take a hard look at that and make an evaluation and see if in fact it is enough-given the rising cost.”

What do you think is the cause of child poverty in our area? What do you think it is about our area that's not working? Joangel Concepcion will continue talking about this issue on our News10NBC's Facebook page.