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Georgia's high poverty rates no surprise to struggling nonprofits

Poverty rates

As the poverty rates in Georgia rise, nonprofits are struggling to make a difference. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 14, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The number of people living below the poverty line is reaching new heights. Some local groups work to combat those numbers, but demand is higher than ever and they are struggling.

The numbers say almost 2 million Georgians are going hungry, but what happens when resources dry up for the groups trying to help?

Coyle Harmon works for GAP Ministries. The Augusta nonprofit organization helps others help themselves, but now they need some help of their own.

"In the face of necessary cuts, where do you cut?" asked Harmon.

It's a question they face as more people fill these seats on a Sunday.

"To the extent that we continue to see more in need and we have limited resources, that's discouraging," Harmon said.

The latest numbers give no relief. Georgia jumped up two spots from last year and now has the third highest poverty rate in the country.

"The numbers aren't surprising," Harmon said. "We've seen this already."

They've seen this because the number of people going to their food pantry and getting birth certificates and photo IDs has doubled in the past months.

"People need those things in order to get jobs to get Americans back to work -- you know, to better the economy -- but when they find themselves trapped, there are just not enough services like these to go around," Harmon said.

In fact, here's what's in jeopardy: Birth certificates and photo IDs may be limited to four to six a week or 16 to 24 a month. Prescription assistance may be limited to 10 per week or 40 per month. Over-the-counter medications and reading glasses could be eliminated all together. Quantities of meals distributed daily and weekly could be decreased.

Some people could just be turned away.

"If you come to someone for help and they send you away because they simply don't have the ability to help everyone and you're one of those people who is not going to get help, that's a real blow to your ability to maintain hope," Harmon said.

Their hope now is that these grim numbers will be a call to action.

The U.S. government considers a family of four to be in poverty if their annual income is less than $22,314.

President Obama is using these numbers to rally support for his $447 billion American Job Act and did so in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday.

The same chart shows the South was the only region to show big increases in numbers and rates. South Carolina has more than 700,000 people or about 17 percent of its population.


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