The number of U.S. children living in poverty increased by 2 million over the past two years. Before the recession, 14 million children were in poverty, compared to 16 million today.
“That is the fastest fall for the middle class since the government started counting 51 years ago,” said CBS News in a recent “60 Minutes” report by correspondent Scott Pelley.
The story of children in poverty focused on Seminole County, Fla., near Disney World.
“The government considers a family of four to be impoverished if they take in less than $22,000 a year. Based on that standard, and government projections of unemployment, it is estimated the poverty rate for kids in this country will soon hit 25 percent. Those children would be the largest American generation to be raised in hard times since the Great Depression,” reported CBS News.
“One of the things that surprised me is how unseen this is,” Pelley told Orlando Sentinel TV critic Hal Boedeker in an interview.
“You could pull behind a school bus and never notice that what you’re seeing in front of you is 40 kids coming out of a motel and getting on a school bus. Those families are living in a single room week to week because they cannot afford housing. They could lose it in a week,” said Pelley.
“This is happening all across America,” he said. “This astounding estimate that 25 percent of kids will be living in poverty suggests how out of sight this problem is.”
Pelley continued: “These are formative years for these kids. They know this time as a time of hunger and homelessness. You talk to a lot of older Americans who grew up in the Great Depression who say that it made them better. I wonder if we’re doing the same thing.”
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Reacting to the “60 Minutes” story, Ed Timberlake, managing chair of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, said the piece illustrated what his organization and the United Way have been saying.
“Families with children – including many in the middle class who have never needed help before – increasingly represent the face of homelessness,” wrote Timberlake in the Orlando Sentinel. “In our tri-county region alone, nearly 6,000 children are homeless, including more than 3,000 in Orange County and nearly 1,500 each in Seminole and Osceola counties.”
He said, “While we know that the number of homeless families has increased 30 percent over the past three years, what we can’t measure is the hidden toll on children who are in their most impressionable, formative years.”
After “60 Minutes” aired, a Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist, Connie Schultz, wrote that Americans can surely agree that having children in poverty was “wrong.”
WFMY News 2 in Greensboro, N.C., reported that the number of homeless children in Guilford County totaled 1,717.
The TV station quoted Mike Aiken, executive director of the Greensboro Urban Ministry, who said that the Triad area had the same problems as Seminole County.
The Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America posted a link to the “60 Minutes” story on its website, one of many organizations to do so.