State’s businesses, charities need to step up to aid almost 1 million Arizonans in poverty
About 913,000 Arizonans were living in poverty last year, when the recession wasn’t as bad as it is now.
That’s 14.3 percent of our residents – significantly higher than the 12.5 percent poverty level nationwide.
Add to that atrocious new finding by the Census Bureau the fact that 1.16 million Arizonans – 18.3 percent of our populace – had no health insurance last year.
A lack of health insurance obviously puts people at higher risk of sinking into poverty. For many, all it takes is one major illness or injury.
This grim profile of Arizona likely is even worse today, given the sinking economy, soaring energy and gas costs, rising unemployment rate and increasing cost of health insurance.
What’s worse, the children of Arizona are hardest-hit – with 20 percent of them living in poverty last year, compared with 18 percent nationwide, reports the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
State government is grappling with a $1.7 billion deficit this fiscal year – the worst in the nation, according to the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities – to be followed by another huge deficit next year.
Social and human state services are bound to be nicked – even as donations to charitable organizations are likely to decrease.
More than $13 million was donated to charitable causes in 2006 by Arizona’s corporate foundations.
But while Arizona foundation assets have more than doubled since 2000, now exceeding $4 billion, the state still has 2 percent of the nation’s population but less than 0.8 percent of foundation assets, the Arizona Grantmakers Forum reported in May.
On health insurance, adding significantly more families to AHCCCS, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, could help to keep more people out of poverty.
But the state and federal governments alone cannot reverse the fortunes of the Grand Canyon State.
In circumstances such as these, individual, small-business and corporate giving is essential.
Millions of dollars worth of volunteer work are donated in Arizona yearly, and those contributions also greatly improve our communities.
As more of Arizona’s working families sink into destitution, though, state and local governments should explore ways to address this problem.
Charities, religious and community leaders and individuals also need to put on their thinking caps and open their wallets wherever possible.
The Greatest Generation weathered the Great Depression with ingenuity, fortitude and hard work, and Arizona surely can work its way through this recession, too. But that will require participation by most if not all of us.
Percentage of people without health insurance, 2006-07
1. Texas 24.8
2. New Mexico 22.7
3. Florida 20.7
4. Louisiana 20.2
5. Mississippi 19.8
6. California 18.5
7. Nevada 18.4
8. Arizona 18.3
9. Georgia 17.6
10. Alaska 17.2
Source: U.S. Census Bureau