Sep 292009
 
Authors: Matt Minich

Larimer County poverty rates have increased nearly 40 percent since the turn of the century, according to recently released survey data presented to Fort Collins community members on Tuesday.

According to the survey, the county’s poverty rates in 2008 were 12.8 percent, an increase of 38.8 percent since the year 2000.

Fort Collins’s poverty rates have increased at a slower rate but have always been significantly higher than those of the county as a whole. In 2008, the survey reported a 16.9 percent poverty rate for the city.

“The presence of college students tends to artificially inflate poverty levels,” Executive Editor of the Fort Collins Coloradoan Bob Moore said. Students, who often depend on their parents for support, can be counted as living below the poverty line while not requiring governmental assistance to survive.

The CSU population has stayed relatively flat over the last decade and does not account for the 21 percent increase in the city’s poverty rate since 2000, Moore said.

Poverty rates are determined by estimating the percentage of the population living below the poverty guidelines given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the guidelines, a family of four is considered impoverished if their income is less than $22,050 annually.

Individuals only require an income of more than $10,830 annually to remain above the guidelines.

The data was presented by the Pathways Past Poverty Initiative — a partnership between the United Way of Larimer County, the Coloradoan newspaper and the CSU Center for Public Deliberation, a community involvement project under the university’s Communication Studies department.

The statistics were gathered by annual surveys of 1,700 Larimer County residents by the U.S. Census Bureau. Because the statistics were gathered from a limited survey, there is always room for error, but general trends revealed by the study should be trusted, Moore, who presented the statistics, said.

Homeless residents of Larimer County were not represented in the survey, as census compilers conducted the survey at residences, Moore said.

Data for the current poverty rates will not be available until next year but is expected to show a significant increase in Larimer County residents living below the poverty line.

Those improvements seen in the 2008 data, namely decreases in the number of seniors and children living in poverty from earlier in the decade, will “almost certainly have been wiped out by economic events,” Moore said.

From June of 2008 to June of 2009, Larimer County saw a 54 percent increase in food stamp applications.

There was an 84 percent increase in applications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF cash assistance, which provides monthly cash payments to qualifying families, according to statistics presented by Marija Weeden-Osborn, the coordinator of Pathways Past Poverty.

“People in this county don’t believe (poverty) is an issue. People in this county don’t see it,” Weeden-Osborn said.

Senior Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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