Related topics

Report: County Seeing A Rise In Food Stamp Recipients

May 11, 2018 GMT

PLAINS TWP. — Luzerne and Lackawanna counties have been seeing an increase in cash assistance and food stamps recipients and the region outpaces the statewide percentage, said Teri Ooms, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development. Ooms presented the institute’s 2018 Indicators Report for Luzerne and Lackawanna counties Thursday at Mohegan Sun Pocono at a forum attended by about 160 people. The report, which tracks data and trends in the region, showed the demand for social service programs has increased across the board. “This is an area that is feeling the effect of the growing senior population and impoverished individuals and those with physical challenges,” Ooms said. According to the report, 17.6 percent of households in Luzerne County and 17 percent in Lackawanna County received food stamps in 2016, the most recent year data was available, while the statewide average was 13.4 percent. Statewide, the percentage of households receiving food stamps has averaged about 13 percent since 2011. Both Luzerne and Lackawanna counties also had a slightly higher percentage of households receiving cash assistance in 2016. According to the report, 3.8 percent of households in Lackawanna County and 3.5 percent in Luzerne County received cash assistance that year while the statewide percentage was 3.2 percent. The report showed that the region has a higher than average rate of people with disabilities. According to the most recent data available from 2016, 16.2 percent of Luzerne County residents and 16.1 percent of Lackawanna County residents have a disability while the statewide percentage is 14.2 percent. The report also showed 24 percent of children under 18 in Luzerne County and 17 percent in Lackawanna County were living below the poverty level in 2016. “There has been some improvement in childhood poverty which is a good sign but more attention is needed,” Ooms said. “Almost one in four children in our region is growing up in poverty.” The United Way of Wyoming Valley has been focusing on reducing poverty among children and their families in the community and Ooms said this is “extremely important.” “Addressing the needs of children is protecting our future,” she said. “Today’s children are tomorrow’s workforce.” Representatives from task forces discussed a variety of topics at the forum including education and workforce development; energy; housing; jobs, the economy and economic development; public safety; planning, land use, transportation and infrastructure; health and health care. Presenters included Dr. Steven Scheinman, president and dean of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, who discussed a study about social factors that contribute to health such as economic status. In Northeast Pennsylvania, he said health outcomes often are related to family composition. “If you’re in a family that is a single parent family, that is likely to be associated with food insecurity, poverty and worst health outcomes,” Scheinman said. According to the report, female single parent households with children under 18 made up 7.8 percent of all households in Luzerne County and 5.4 percent of all households in Lackawanna County in 2016. Just over 2 percent of all households in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties in 2016 were male single parent households. Andrew Chew, senior research and policy analyst for the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, outlined health indicators in the report and he said health behaviors in the region are “another challenge.” According to the report, 22 percent of residents in Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties smoke, which is higher than the statewide percentage of 19 percent. Also in Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties, 6 percent of residents drink excessively. “Drug and alcohol use is another concern,” Chew said. “Nutrition and physical activity are among the other behavioral factors that go into health outcomes and what we see is that those outcomes like cancer, heart disease and diabetes occur at high rates regionally.” This year’s report showed that Luzerne and Lackawanna counties had a higher number of age-adjusted death rates for cancer and heart disease than Pennsylvania as a whole. It showed an improvement in the number of suicide deaths but the numbers in both counties have been consistently higher than the statewide rate. “That underscores a need for a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to mental health,” Chew said. Contact the writer: dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh