Addressing Inequality in VA
The Center for American Progress has released its annual “State of the States” report which evaluates progress toward reducing poverty and increasing opportunity by tracking 15 key indicators in each state. How well is Virginia doing in the rankings? The following are some of the more pertinent stats:
#12 Poverty Rate: With a population of 8,080,300 in 2014, 953,395 or 11.8% of people in Virginia had income below the poverty line. The national rate is 14.8%.
#14 Child Poverty Rate: 15.5 percent of children under age 18 in related families in Virginia had incomes below the poverty line in 2014.
#34 Income Inequality: The share of income going to the top 20 percent of households in Virginia was 15.5 times that going to the bottom 20 percent of households in 2014.
#38 Affordable and Available Housing: Virginia had 57 apartments or other units that were affordable and available for every 100 renter households with very low incomes in 2014. Very low-income households are those with incomes at or below half of median income in the metropolitan or other area where they live.
#43 Health Insurance Coverage: 26.7% of people under age 65 and below 138% of the poverty line did not have health insurance at any time in 2014 (23.2% under age 65 and below 138% of the poverty line were uninsured in the U.S.)
#43 Unemployment Coverage: 18.6% of unemployed workers in Virginia were helped by unemployment insurance in 2014. (27.4% of unemployed workers in the U.S. were helped in 2014).
This report is timely as deliberations on budgets take place at the local level as well as in the Virginia General Assembly. We know that strong public policies and adequate financial resources matter when it comes to addressing poverty, improving economic opportunity and promoting social justice.
These statistics provide good guidance for what our budget priorities should be. With such sizable percentages of families and children living in poverty, struggling to earn living wages, paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing, and living without health insurance, the well-being of the Commonwealth is at risk. Economic success is not sustainable with these substantial levels of inequality and lack of opportunity for so many.
What we can do: Advocate for more resources to address growing poverty, especially here in Northern Virginia. Tell your state representatives, especially those who are budget conferees, to keep the Governor’s allocation of $10 million for the Housing Trust Fund in tact and continue to speak out for Medicaid expansion.
Testify at the local level about the growing housing affordability crisis in our region and advocate for more regulatory tools (increased density, inclusionary zoning, fast-track site planning process for affordable housing proposals) and financial tools (local rental subsidies, increased funding for housing preservation and production, commercial developer impact fees). Support elected officials who hear our concerns and make them priorities in our budgets. Let’s make our voices heard today!