Let’s Hear About Poverty

There has been a number of words touting positive events in Chautauqua County, such as the creation of jobs and the lower unemployment rate. We are told that people in the county have had a moral boost and are feeling more positive. Congratulations, that is good news. But something has been left out.

In all that good news, not one word has been said about poverty — not one.

Sixty percent of babies born in Chautauqua County are in families that receive Medicaid or Medicaid advantaged plans. Not one word said about that.

The overall poverty rate in Chautauqua County is 18.49%. Not one word has been said about that.

Female heads of households with children have a poverty rate of 50.7% If a person has a high school diploma, median earnings for a male are $35,173, but for a female the median pay is $20,210. Not one word is said about that.

The Jamestown Public Schools District, according to the Census Bureau, has a 40.2% rate of poverty for kids aged 5-17. (The rate is 28% for the country.) Not one word has been said about that. The Jamestown School District has a poverty rate of 28.5% for all people. Not one word said about that.

Twelve counties in New York have the lowest weekly wages of less than $800. Chautauqua County is one of them. The US average weekly wage is $1,055.

Nineteen-and-a-half percent of the unemployed have no health insurance. Twelve percent of the whole population of Chautauqua County under age 65 are without health insurance. Eighty-three and two-tenths percent of people in Chautauqua County are under the age of 65, which, of a population of 129,000 is 107,328, and 12% of that is 12,879, and that is the number of people without health insurance in Chautauqua County.

What is the Department of Health and Human Services doing to contact those 12,879 people to try and get them Medicaid? Anything? Who knows, not a word is said about it.

To get health insurance, specifically Medicaid, a single person qualifies financially if they earn less than $1,437 per month (health.ny.gov) or $17,236 per year. A family of three qualifies if they earn less than $29,435 per year (138% of the Federal Poverty Level).

Chautauqua County is spending lots of money to clean and manage Lake Chautauqua. We read a lot of news about the care for the lake. But not one word about how much money the county is spending to make sure every person in the county has health insurance or to make sure everyone who qualifies financially for Medicaid is given Medicaid. Why isn’t that the big news we read about?

Let DHHS do something. Have the Commissioner of DHHS and staff visit every school and contact every parent, and when DHHS learns a family has no health insurance, it can determine if the family qualifies financially for Medicaid and approve them for Medicaid–immediately. Let the county executive in one hundred days visit a hundred families who qualify for Medicaid and get them approved.

Let’s hear about that.

Timothy Hoyer is a Jamestown resident.