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Rural poverty affecting more local residents

Fifteen percent of Clearfield County residents live in poverty

By Marc Stempka

CLEARFIELD, Pa. -- Officials across Pennsylvania are working to battle a problem that has caught the attention of leaders in Harrisburg: Too many Pennsylvania residents are living in poverty, and many are in rural communities.

Rep. Tommy Sankey (R-Clearfield) hosted Tuesdays forum about rural poverty in Clearfield County. Sankey was joined by members of the Pennsylvania House Majority Policy Committee and local community groups, working as part of a state-wide effort to gather information about residents living in poverty.

The forum was part of a larger committee effort called Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty, that has worked to identify the challenges faced by families that may be prevented from rising out of poverty in different areas across the state.

Data from the United States Department of Health showed that a family of four living on less than $23,000 a year qualifies that family to be considered living in poverty.  

In Clearfield County, statistics from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania showed that 15 percent of all county residents live in poverty. That includes 25 percent of the countys children.

You see it, you see it every day along state roads, Sankey said. [People] go to work, try to go to church, but just cant get ahead.

Those attending the forum heard from community groups who work daily with individuals living in poverty, including those with Clearfield County Community Action, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the Anawim Community and other organizations. Anawim

Community Director Sister Therese Dush said helping those living in poverty can be difficult.

So many people fall through the cracks. It can be challenging to meet the exact requirements of a state or federal assistance program, Dush said.

House Majority Police Committee Chairman Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said state leaders need to find a common ground when it comes to assisting those in poverty.

A one size fits all doesnt work in Pennsylvania, it depends where you live, Reed said.

Sankey said in Clearfield County, the continued influx of natural gas companies, specifically those who specialize in Marcellus shale, could help by providing jobs.

We sit on a mecca of energy and if we can get people high-paying jobs, money makes money, Sankey said.

Hearings for Empowering Opportunities will continue across the state, with discussions focusing on urban, rural and suburban poverty.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times