Poverty can overwhelm daily life

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opinions

August 18, 2017 - 12:00 AM

To survive, a family needs an income of at least 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
In Allen County 5,215 people live below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. That is almost equal to the entire population of Iola.
In Allen County 2,407 residents live below the poverty level. If you gathered all of the residents of Mildred, Moran, Elsmore, Bassett, Gas, LaHarpe, and Savonburg you would still have to add 500 more people to equal that number.
Why is it important to know these numbers? Because these are our friends, our neighbors, our parents, our grandparents and our children.
Policies made by the city and county officials should take into account these statistics whenever a decision is being made in regards to increased rates or taxes.
Living in poverty is stressful. Take any normal daily occurrence, add poverty and it equals great stress. For some, paying property taxes doesn’t hurt a bit. For a greater number, it can be done but it is a numbers crunch. For others, including the 12.7 percent of the elderly living in Allen County it can be a nightmare.
Something as simple as paying a utility bill can be impossible. Illness (either yours or your child’s), disability, sudden death of a spouse, divorce, lack of employment or poor paying jobs — all of those things can make paying a utility bill impossible. Add to the stress by knowing that the bill is due, and a shut-off is imminent and you have children in your house, or oxygen that you or someone in your household requires and the stress becomes greater. Then know that if you can’t come up with the payment there will be a late fee tacked on. Then if that doesn’t make the money magically appear, you face shutoff and reconnect fees to get them turned back on. 
This is a ridiculous and unneeded burden to put on that great of a number of our population.
Poverty doesn’t change for a lot of people. We live in an area where it is hard to dig yourself out of poverty if you fall into it. When you live in poverty you pay more for insurance, you have poor credit so any loan that you get for a vehicle has a higher interest rate. You can’t go to the bank and get a loan when the roof leaks, you can’t even buy cough syrup when you are sick, or Depends so that you can leave your house. Poverty is isolating.  It takes something other than punitive actions to boost someone out of poverty. In fact, those are the actions that help to keep people there. We should open our eyes and do better.
The big picture is that by helping those who live in poverty, either personally or through policy decisions,  you help yourself and your community.
Keagle is director of Iola’s Humanity House.

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