The state's poverty rate decreased slightly from 2005 to 2006 and more residents had health insurance, but advocates for children and the poor said the state must do better.
While the median household income in the state rose to $63,422, about 275,000 residents were living below the federal poverty level, and about 325,000 had no health insurance, according to U.S. Census data released Tuesday.
Among the uninsured were 49,000 children under age 18.
To Doug Hall, associate research director for Connecticut Voices for Children, the state's static poverty figures are disturbing.
"We are one of the wealthiest states in the nation and we have a child poverty rate that fluctuates between 10 and 12 percent every year," Hall said. "We don't seem to be pursuing policies to dramatically decrease child poverty in the state."
Hall is also concerned that President Bush has threatened to veto legislation that would loosen restrictions on the use of federal dollars for the state's HUSKY program, which covers children with no health insurance.
In Connecticut, 9.6 percent of children under 18 were living below the federal poverty level - roughly $20,000 a year income for a family of four - in 2006, down from 12.0 percent in 2005, according to census figures.
The nation's poverty rate declined for the first time this decade, from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 percent in 2006. Connecticut also has one of the lowest poverty rates for all ages in the country, according to the census.
The data also show that Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey had the highest median incomes in 2006.
For many human-service providers, the figures indicate that the state needs to focus on making progress for working families. Others called on the state to implement the goals outlined in 2004 by the Child Poverty Council, an organization created by the state legislature to decrease child poverty by 50 percent by 2014.
"We have a poverty council up and running since 2004 and we've not passed the initiatives we need," said Juliet Manalan, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Association for Community Action.
James Horan, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, said child poverty rates remain high in large cities.
"This argues for strategies that foster opportunity and prosperity for children and families in our poorest cities," Horan said.
Nationally, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million in 2006.
But Connecticut saw a slight decrease in the number of uninsured, according to the data. In 2006, there were 325,000 uninsured residents, or 9.39 percent, down from 381,000 residents, or 10.93 percent in 2005, according to the data.
Ludwig Spinelli, who heads Optimus Health Care, a nonprofit organization that operates in Fairfield County, said he hasn't seen a reduction in poverty in the state.
"Here in the front lines we are seeing more poor people than ever," Spinelli said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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