CLARKSBURG — West Virginia is the seventh-most poverty-stricken state in the nation, with a poverty rate of 17.9 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
The Clarksburg area is only a little below that, with a poverty rate of around 15 percent.
This is statistically unchanged since the recession in 2008, according to Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
“Poverty numbers went up during the recession and stayed at that level,” O’Leary said, pointing to income stagnation as one of the contributing factors.
West Virginia’s median household income was an estimated $42,019 in 2015, the third lowest of all 50 states. The median household income in Clarksburg was $46,903.
One solution to the poverty problem could be the introduction of a refundable state earned income tax credit, or EITC, according to Seth DiStefano, a campaign coordinator for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
“An earned income tax credit makes perfect sense for West Virginia,” DiStefano said. “We need to get serious about helping working families in our state, because right now we are not making any progress.”
According to DiStefano, an EITC would affect around 141,000 households in West Virginia, and could help significantly in terms of the state’s poverty level.
House Bill 4645, which would give state EITC’s to working families, was introduced to the state Legislature earlier this year.
“The bill has broad bipartisan support,” DiStefano said. In fact, there is a coalition of 39 different organizations who have endorsed the bill, ranging from the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families and The W.Va. Council of Churches to The West Virginia Bankers Alliance and the Coalfield Development Corporation.