In 2018, the number of children living in poverty in Daviess County was on the decline, according to the Kids Count annual data book released recently by Kentucky Youth Advocates.

The number of kids in the county living in families with incomes 100% below the poverty level had fallen to 19.2% in 2018, compared to 21.4% five years before, according to Kids County data. While the number of children living in extreme poverty remained the same, at 11%, between 2013 and 2018, Daviess County’s percentage of children in poverty and extreme poverty was well below the state average.

That was in 2018, the last year for which data was available in the Kids Count data book. But 2020, officials believe, has hit a lot of people hard financially as they struggle with lost jobs and lost wages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statewide, 53% of Kentucky residents interviewed by the U.S. Census Bureau in June and July reported having lost income this year. A Census Bureau survey conducted in September said one in six households with children in the state reported not having enough food in the week before they were surveyed.

Angela Settle, director of the Help Office of Owensboro, said the agency has seen many first-timers needing help this year.

“(In) April and May and into June, 90 to 95% of the clients who would call for assistance, especially for rent, were new clients who had never been in that situation,” Settle said. “... they didn’t know where to start.”

The Kids County data book cites the U.S. Census Bureau June-July survey, where 83% of Kentucky families that didn’t have enough food received food through the school systems, 19% through food banks and 29% received food from family and friends.

“The economic effects of the health pandemic have also affected Black and Latinx people more intensely, due to long-standing gaps in the quality and security of jobs held compared to White people,” the data book says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily routines, hurt families’ ability to meet basic needs, and presented serious threats to the health and safety of all of us. It has also made us painfully aware of the deep disparities among us and that opportunities continue to differ based on the color of your skin,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

“Due to systemic and historical inequities, Black and Brown children are being left behind, and these disparities have only been exacerbated by the global pandemic,” Brooks said.

Settle said requests for assistance have not slowed down, and the Help Office is planning to be open days in December before Christmas and before New Year’s Day when it would normally be closed to help people facing utility disconnection.

“We are still seeing a great need from first-time people,” Settle said. “But we also are getting a mixture of clients we have seen before. So it is hitting everybody now.”

Shannon Burke, family resource coordinator for Cravens Elementary School, said she was surprised the Kids County data shows a decline in people in poverty in the county in 2018.

“I’m kind of shocked the data had it going down,” Burke said. “... I never would have guessed that Daviess County had gone down for 2018, because I haven’t seen it at all. My at-risk population has stayed pretty much the same for 10 years, not counting COVID.

“I expect when they do the Kids Count for COVID, there will be a huge increase” in the number of people in poverty, she said.

Burke said Daviess County is fortunate to have a variety of agencies that work with people in need, and donors who support the agencies.

“Daviess County is resource-rich,” Burke said. “We have (agencies) that have … really come forward with COVID, and have done tremendous things.

“We have more at need, but we have more resources than other communities have.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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