Local News

Report: 18 counties have poverty levels above 20 percent

Posted November 24, 2009 3:17 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2009 6:58 p.m. EST

— Eighteen of the 100 North Carolina counties have poverty levels above 20 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the NC Justice Center.

The highest percentage was in Robeson County, where nearly 31 percent of residents lived poverty in 2008.

The statewide poverty level was 14 percent in 2008, according to the American Community Survey.

North Carolina's average per capita income was $28,908 in 2008, according to the ACS. The N.C. Division of Social Services reports that a family of four needs an average household income of $42,841 to meet its basic needs.

Robeson was followed by Scotland with 29 percent, Lenoir with nearly 26 percent, and Vance and Wilkes counties with 25 percent.

Vance County saw a 3-point jump in its unemployment rate to 13 percent this year as compared to 2008.

The county has lost thousands of jobs in manufacturing and textiles. Recently, it partnered with the City of Henderson to focus economic development efforts.

“It was not something that has occurred overnight and the solutions won’t be overnight, but we are optimistic that it can be done,” Vance County Manager Jerry Ayscue said.

Tocca Crudup, of Henderson, said her husband has been looking for work for a year. She was getting food on Tuesday from the local pantry Area Christians Together in Service (ACTS), at 305 S. Chestnut St.

Crudup, who is disabled, said receiving the food brings her "joy."

Officials at the ACTS soup kitchen said they are serving an average of 60 people at lunch, an increase of about 20 people from last year.

“When the jobs get scarce, our services become much more in demand,” said Melvin Green, ACTS executive director.

Green said the community has increased donations to make sure nobody gets turned away.

Officials at the shelter Lifeline Outreach, 2014 Raleigh Road in Henderson, have been forced to turn away some people seeking food.

“Sometimes we have to say, ‘No, we don’t have enough,’” said Dorothy Hunt, Lifeline Outreach founder and executive director.

Hunt said the need for food at the shelter is up 40 percent.

“I’ve been doing this 29 years and this is the worst that we’ve seen,” Hunt said.

The number of people receiving food stamps increased in Vance County from 11,209 in September 2008 to 12,630 this year, according to the report.

The report showed that about 23 percent of residents of Robeson County lacked health insurance. Unemployment in the county spiked from nearly 9 percent last year to 12 percent this year.

Other counties with a more than 20 percent poverty rate were: Bladen (25), Duplin (21), Edgecombe (23), Halifax (24), Hertford (25), Pitt (22), Richmond (24), Watauga (21) and Wilson (23).

The Triangle area fared better in the report. Wake County was found to have a 9 percent poverty rate in 2008. Durham and Chatham counties had 13 percent and Orange County had a 14 percent poverty rate.

Overall the report found that statewide 1.3 million people were living in poverty and 1.4 million people were without health insurance in 2008.