By Mark Waite
The U.S. Census Bureau reported Nye County had a poverty rate of 18.7 percent in the 2010 census, in a report released this week.
The Census Bureau reported 8,125 Nye County residents lived below the poverty level, out of a total county population of 43,946 in the 2010 census.
A single person would have to earn below $11,139 per year to live below the poverty level, for two people it’s $14,218 per year, for two people with two children they would have to earn less than $22,113.
The Nye County poverty rate is higher than the 15.3 percent rate nationally, the Census Bureau estimates 46.2 million Americans are living below the poverty level. The county rate is also higher than the state of Nevada, where the Census Bureau figures show 393,605 Nevadans live below poverty, 14.8 percent of the population.
“I would say that’s at least the truth,” Stacy Smith, executive director of the NyE Communities Coalition said of the poverty estimates. “Our community is kind of hard to survey. Number one, we have people who aren’t receptive to being surveyed and we’re so spread out.”
Smith said she noticed many people applying for jobs at Career Connections are now men who look like they’ve worked all their lives, instead of women and younger people.
“There are people struggling economically who don’t know the system who have never struggled financially before,” Smith said.
Pahrump also has a larger senior population, which has struggled with a loss in investments, she said.
The Nye Community Outreach Committee was formed to focus on poverty, homelessness and outreach services about two years ago, after churches were asked to help more than ever before, Smith said. The outreach committee meets monthly to combine strategies.
The Census Bureau, in a prepared statement, said the poverty rate for school age children increased significantly in about 20 percent of the counties from 2007, the beginning of the recession, to 2010. The bureau reported 653 counties saw a significant increase in poverty for children ages 5 to 17.
Twenty-seven percent of the Nye County residents living below the poverty level, 2,481, are under 18 years old, the Census Bureau reported.
“If you compare that to the free and reduced lunch list, also to the statistics that are coming out of the welfare department, absolutely, those are right in line,” Linda Fitzgibbons, the homeless liaison for the Nye County School District said of the census figures.
The Nye County School District reported at the beginning of the year there were 3,224 students who qualified for the free or reduced school lunch program, almost 60 percent of the 5,428 enrolled in school. That’s up from 3,151 last year. For Pahrump, 2,652 of the 4,230 students were eligible for free or reduced lunch, 62.6 percent.
Under the federal guidelines, any student from a family living below the poverty level or from a family that receives food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP or welfare, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families TANF , qualifies for free lunch.
A reduced lunch is available to students from families making within 185 percent of the poverty level, which for a family of four is $40,909 per year. Breakfast costs 30 cents and school lunch 40 cents for students who qualify under the reduced price program, instead of $1 and $2.
As of Thursday Fitzgibbons had a list of 186 homeless students enrolled in the Nye County School District, a year ago there were 149.
Fitzgibbons said she started the 2010-11 school year with 105 homeless students and ended up with 253.
Fitzgibbons said 99.9 percent of the homeless children have a roof over their head, they often are “couch surfing,” living with relatives or friends.
Median household incomes declined significantly in 735 counties from 2007 to 2010, while the Census Bureau reported 78 counties had a significant increase.
The 2010 median household income in Nye County was $41,054, the Census Bureau reported, that is less than the $50,046 median household income for the nation as a whole and $50,987 in Nevada.
The Census Bureau also reported poverty estimates for school districts, in Nevada each county has its own school district.
The 2010 small area income and poverty statistics, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, are used as criteria to allocate federal funds to local educational agencies.