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Area suburban poverty rates reflect what organizations are seeing locally

ACTS

Over the past couple of years, there have been 60 to 100 new people looking for food or assistance from ACTS every single month. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 27, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011

AUGUSTA -- The Augusta metro area, which includes Richmond and five surrounding counties, now ranks ninth in the nation for areas with the highest suburban poverty rate.

This comes from a Brookings Institution study that says almost a fifth of the people here are living below the poverty line.

And some at local assistance organizations say they are not surprised by this ranking -- it only reinforces what they're already seeing more people in need and less assistance to go around.

Cheneace Campbell is waiting to hear if she is going to get the help she needs. She is meeting with ACTS, Area Churches Together Serving.

"I am here to get assistance with my electric bill to help keep the minimum balance to keep the services on," Campbell said.

Campbell has a job, but her hours have been cut.

"I am a college graduate, so I am looking for full-time work, but if you don't have the experience, then they won't hire you but you can't get the experience unless you get the job," she said.

And she's not alone -- people all over Aiken County are coming to this relief organization for assistance.

"The salaries are just not increasing to help cover the expenses, and it is just hard for a lot of people to, like I said, meet their basic needs," said Karen Perry, the ACTS operations manager.

Over the past couple of years, there have been 60 to 100 new people looking for food or assistance like this from ACTS every single month.

And they're stretched, too. While News 12 was there, they were able to cover some of Campbell's bill, but not all of it.

"You can only do so much to help others, and it is really hard to see that when you wish you could do more to help and you can't," Perry said.

Campbell is grateful for the help but now has to figure out how to make up the rest.

"Just worrying about how to pay things and this is electricity, you have to have that to live, it is not something you can just go without having," Campbell said.

And where ACT'S can't help, it hopes state and federal aid can.

Golden Harvest is another organization seeing the effects from the rising poverty rates.

The food bank says more people in the community need food and they're having trouble helping them.

The organization has been forced to lay off employees and corporate donations are down. They say keeping up with the demand is not.

"To us, this is a surprise perhaps that nationally it is that high but that there has been a big increase, no that's not a surprise," said Barry Forde with Golden Harvest.

They say people who used to donate food are now some of the ones who need it.

They estimate the increase is as high as 13 or 14 percent.

The Benefit Bank is a program ACTS uses to sign people up for aid. It's free and available through many local relief organizations like ACTS in South Carolina.

You can call ACTS for details at (803) 642-5919 or visit the Benefit Bank's website.


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