Community Leaders Push for Poverty Solution 2

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missourians to End Poverty (MEP) coalition met Wednesday to show Missouri lawmakers the "steady increase" in poverty and encourage state leaders to take action.

MEP officially released its 2014 State of the State: Poverty in Missouri report, which shows 947,792 people in Missouri are now in poverty. Data shows poverty rates raised nearly three percent over the past five years.

Pat Dougherty of Catholic Charities started off the meeting saying each county in Missouri has some percentage of poverty.

"We want lawmakers and policymakers to know that there is poverty," said Dougherty.

He said that includes men, women, and children. He said Missouri is a rich state, but he said not many share in that because of poverty.

The meeting at the state capitol outlined poverty and how it coincides with food, housing and energy, health care and security with families and the economy.

Single mother LaTreva Smith spoke out for the families during the meeting. She works with Central Missouri Community Action while raising for children on her own. She said her pre-tax income in 2012 was $22,000. That's 100 percent below the federal poverty level. 

"Health care for myself is provided free of charge by my employer," Smith said. "They have to reduce my pay about 25 percent [to cover her children]. Due to this, I have to apply for state-sponsored health care coverage."

Smith also said she has had to visit food banks because food stamp assistance doesn't cover all of her family's needs.

Jessica Long of the Missouri Association for Community Action said she would like to see change in the way Missouri provides social services.

"Currently, if you reach an income limit, you are cut off from services," said Long. "I feel like we could do a balancing act. Instead of cutting families off the minute they make one dollar over the income limit."

She said if the state would just slowly reduce those benefits as families are able to increase their economic security, the state would have a much better situation for low income families across the board.

The coalition is made up of 25 different organizations such as the Missouri Association for Community Action and Social Welfare. Other participants include nonprofits, businesses and church charities. 

2014 State of the State: Poverty in Missouri by Cody Lee Heyveld