Report: 16.3 percent of county kids poor in 2009

In 2009, 16.3 percent of Mesa County children lived at or below the federal poverty line, according to an annual study released Thursday by research and advocacy group Colorado Children’s Campaign.

The 2011 Kids Count survey found 17 percent of children statewide in 2009 lived at or below the poverty line, which equates to a $22,050 annual income for a family of four. That’s an increase from 2008, when 15.8 percent of Colorado children and 13.6 percent of Mesa County children lived in poverty.

The increase in local child poverty was felt in numerous areas, including School District 51’s free- and reduced-meal participation, which increased from 38.5 percent in fall 2008 to 45 percent in fall 2009. Median household income in the county also decreased from $54,337 in 2008 to $52,290 in 2009, according to the study, and the number of local students helped by a District 51 homeless program increased from 482 to 504.

It was about six months into 2009 before parents started to reach out to Hilltop’s family- and child-assistance programs, according to Jackie Sievers, who oversees the organization’s B4 Babies and Beyond, Family First, Latimer House, Hilltop Housing and Kiddin’ Around Learning Center programs.

“One of the things we’re seeing is more applications from people who have never accessed public benefits before,” Sievers said.

The percentage of local families receiving vouchers from nutritional support program WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, increased from 25.1 percent in 2008 to 30.1 percent in 2009, according to Kids Count. However, the percentage of children in the county who were uninsured in 2009 was 14.8 percent, 4.7 percent above the state tally. The percentage of uninsured children in Mesa County was not reported in Kids Count in 2008.

Sievers said local public-insurance programs such as Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus may have had steady enrollment between 2008 and 2009 locally because some parents are not aware they may qualify for assistance. That’s why she encourages anyone who has an uninsured child to ask Hilltop about such programs.

Areas of the Kids Count report that Sievers is particularly proud of include numbers showing the county is below the state in low birth weights at 7.4 percent and above the state in percentage of mothers receiving early prenatal care at 80.5 percent.


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