1 in 3 Lewiston kids poor, report says

More than one out of every three children in Lewiston live in poverty, the highest rate in the state, according to a report released Monday about the status of Maine children.

One in three children are living in poverty.

Other statewide highlights in the Kids Count report include:

Fewer Maine kids are drinking and smoking marijuana, but more are smoking cigarettes.

In 2007, 39.3 percent of high school students used alcohol, compared to 32.2 percent in 2009. In 2007, 14 percent of high-schoolers smoked. That increased to 18.1 percent in 2009.

In spite of the recession, more children live in families where they have a family doctor. And only 6 percent of Maine children lack health care, half the national rate of 12 percent.

Even though Maine is a poor state, “kids are faring very well,” Goldberg said. “I'd rather raise kids in Maine than other states.”

Statewide 22 percent of Maine children, more than one out of every five, and 17 percent of children under 18 live in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey's Foundation's Maine Kid's Count report, released Monday by the Maine Children's Alliance.

Lewiston's child poverty percentage is 41.68 percent.

“That's shocking. It's more than four out of 10,” said Elinor Goldberg, executive vice president of the Maine Children's Alliance.

Auburn has the second highest percentage of children in poverty, 26.59 percent, and Portland the third, 26.29 percent, according to the report.

The report uses the federal definition of poverty, which is an income of $22,000 or less for a family of four. That's not enough to buy basic necessities, Goldberg said.

Growing up poor doesn't doom a child to an unsuccessful life, but poor children are more likely to struggle in school, have health problems or be involved with crime, Goldberg said.

“The frightening thing is that the national projections show it's going to continue to rise. Unemployment rates are not going to drop for a long time,” she said. That means the number of children growing up poor will continue to rise.

The biggest reason for higher poverty is the bad economy and unemployment, Goldberg said. The point of focusing on poverty is to give information so officials can act, Goldberg said.

There are no easy short-term fixes, but supporting programs like health care and Head Start help ensure “poor kids are not as harmed as they might have been,” she said.

Lewiston-Auburn officials may want to respond by creating a poverty commission “to get a grip on what's going on, what are the things we can do to help,” Goldberg said.

But Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said Lewiston and Auburn mayors “did that exercise” last summer. “In this economy it's difficult to implement the initiatives.”

Craven said she was “horrified to see those numbers. I couldn't imagine that the poverty rate was so high in Lewiston. It's troubling because the numbers are lagging.”

The report's numbers come from the American Community Survey, which used three-year averages from 2006-08, before many jobs were shed in the recession. According to the Maine Children's Alliance, the previous number for child poverty in Lewiston from 2005-07 was higher, 43.8 percent.

Part of the answer, Craven said, “is making sure we start creating jobs in an accelerated manner.” State legislators are discussing job creation bonds that could go to voters. If passed, the bonds would include millions for Lewiston in rail development and clean water projects, she said.

Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert agreed. "We have the two poorest census tracks in the city." That seems to be synonymous with the report, he said.

Lewiston is a service center community, as is Portland. But Portland has the ocean and more businesses and wealth, Gilbert said.

"We've also had a significant refugee immigrant population move in," Gilbert said. Some of the Bantu and Somali came with little formal education, which makes it harder to seek employment. "Although they do," he said. "But it's going to take some time."

And Lewiston's manufacturing jobs have been sent overseas, which he blames on Congress. There should be a penalty on companies that get rich by moving jobs overseas to get slave labor, Gilbert said.

"You hear people complain about welfare. Corporate welfare exceeds what social welfare costs. I would love to have good manufacturing jobs." A proposed Lewiston casino could help with jobs, he said.

Genevieve Lysen of the Maine People's Alliance in Lewiston called the number “heartbreaking” and said that “parents are struggling to provide for their children.”

Unemployment is higher in Lewiston-Auburn than in Portland and Bangor, she said. “The government, at the local, state and federal levels, must take an active role in putting people back to work,” Lysen said.

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Comments

John Clement's picture

W. C. Fields said little

W. C. Fields said little children are tough but if you parboil them for six hours the are nice and tender.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

Lewiston is known to have an

Lewiston is known to have an abundance of low cost rents which naturally draws low income people. If the City's leaders would wake up to this one fact and stop the growth of subsidized housing the problem would not be so great. If rents in Lewiston (and Auburn) were in the same range as Portland and Manchester NH, we woulod see the problem of poverty diminish. We, as a society, have tried to abolish poverty for years and have not; maybe it is time to change our methodology and use tough love as a policy.

cut out subsidized housing??

What are you smoking?   Cutting out subsidized housing in stupid.  What about the single parent that can't find a job but wants to work"? How will that help with poverty?  I was born and raised here in lewiston aub.  I always had 2 or 3 jobs at the same time.  The past couple years have really been hard for me.  I can't find a job.  I go out everyday without any luck while my daughter is in school.

Im 4 months behind on my rent but luckily I have landlords that are willing to work with me.  I also go to school online to try to get a better job.  It's the government.  Thats the problem.  The president gives out money to the big car dealers and banks to bail them out.  Why not take that money and make businesses where we can find jobs?  Or make more homes for the homeless.  Give the welfare recipients more reasons to have hope.  Don't kick us when we're down.  Stop taking in refugees from other countries until we're able to support out own!!  Thats the problem.  The government is trying to help too much too soon.  I grew up with parents that worked in a shoe shop most their lives until they acquired a restaraunt from their family.   Since retiring they have had to struggle because the government takes out more and more taxes for something else.  The cost of living keeps rising but the wages aren't anywhere near where they need to be for us to survive.  I started working when I was 9.  I babysat the kids on my road on the weekends and after school, so their parents could go to work or to the store.  Then I got my first real job at the age of 13.    I have nothing against helping other people from other countries, but make sure you help everyone equally.  I see some of the refugees come over here and end up with new cars, clothes and money to buy businesses.  They don't even know how to drive, some of them.  Then they think we all owe them something.   I hate being on welfare, but I can't find a job because there  are none .

Plus what I get for welfare is in place for my nonexistent child support because I have a dead beat dad for my daughter who is remarried and supporting his other daughter with his new wife and 2 step kids.   Figures doesn't it.  So don't knock subsidized housing.  Next you may pay more taxes just to keep us fed.   believe me I hate being in the system.  I want a job and to own  my own house and make my own money.  I'm tired of handouts but I have no choice at the moment.  I have a daughter to feed.

Michael Hobbs's picture

Rude

That is one of the rudest things I have seen in quite sometime. Apparently you didn't read her whole story, she is trying by going to school online. How about you get off your high horse and be more compassionate about those who aren't as lucky as some. Being a poor excuse for a human should be a crime.

John Clement's picture

damn you,  you beat me to

damn you,  you beat me to it.  I was thinking repeal the child labor laws and re-open the sweat shops.  keep the little beggars off the street and at the same time help them earn some money so they won't be poor. 

Linda  Daigle's picture

my thoughts

My husband and I brought up three kids without alot of money, you know what, they never knew it.  We always owned our own home, but lots of times after the bills were paid, there wasn't alot left over for food.  We somehow managed, through old fashioned work and determination.  Our kids did not go to school in rags, and our home was not a pig pen.  We ate nutritious meals I made from scratch.  As I said, we may have struggled, but it wasn't obvious.  Thats the difference today--there isn't alot of pride.  The poor and impovrished seem to have no hope or really, to even care.  I realize that this seems like a general statement, but going into Walmart the other day, which I really try to avoid it became so obvious.  People don't care, and why should they?  They can sit on their butts and collect a check, the schools and streets will raise their kids, and if they become obese or disabled, they blame it on everyone but themselves.   I wish I could think of a way to solve it, and I certainly have tried to help, but some people don't want to be helped, or they are so used to being helped they won't do a thing for themselves.  My hometown of Lewiston embarrasses me. 

Bob Stone's picture

Reminds me of a Melanie song from the '60's

"What Have the Done to my Town, Ma?"

The Sun-Journal editor, years ago, called the social re-engineering of Lewiston a "grand experiment."  Nine years later...well, you decide.

John Clement's picture

I am sure he doesn't live

I am sure he doesn't live here bob.  diversity is for the little people not them.

 's picture

poverty

Could the fact of so many immigrants/refugees invading Lewiston/ Auburn by the thousands have anything to do with these figures of low income?  Why are the majority of homeless people in Brunswick NOT from the Brunswick/Topsham area?  It just might be that the generous welfare system of Maine draws these people to Maine.  I am sure that the Catholic Charities has a hand in changing the figures in Portland.

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