Opinion: Progress in lowering Iowa’s poverty rate must continue

The number of Iowans below the state’s poverty line has been trending down, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Taylor Newby, Columnist

The U.S. Census Bureau released research Sept. 26 revealing that, for the fifth-consecutive year, the United States has seen a drop in the percentage of people living in poverty, and studies that have been centered around Iowa show similar trends.

While significant efforts are being made to lower the poverty rate, there is still work left to be done. Millions of people live in poverty across the country, and hundreds of thousands of people live in poverty in Iowa.

Steps made toward lower unemployment rates have intermingled with steps to bring more people out of poverty. By strategizing ways to equip residents of the state financially, there has been room for growth in statistics set around unemployment rates and people living in poverty.

Iowa alone has seen an exceptional decrease in unemployment rates in recent years, leveling out to be around only 2.5 percent of the state’s population, according to Iowa Workforce Development. And while Iowans have high levels of job security overall, one of every eight Iowa residents live below the poverty line, according to the Sept. 26 report.

While there’s victory in the lessening numbers, increasing varieties of opportunity, and testament of the government’s attention to these communities, the progress made thus far can’t stop here.

These promising statistics on a nationwide and statewide scale should do more than just be an excuse to congratulate ourselves. These numbers serve as a perfect platform for developing policies for the future and deepening our understanding of how we can make our country’s economy work for everyone.

This research and analysis gives voice to communities that have been silenced by economic structure — and without ceasing, offer trajectory for change on a national level as well as a more local level.

“Planners, policymakers and community stakeholders use poverty estimates to evaluate trends and current economic conditions in their communities,” the Census report said. “In addition, federal and state governments often use these estimates to allocate funds to communities.”

This means that government entities should grab these statistics and use them as a tool to determine where aid is needed, and use that insight to build programs catered to the needs of various communities are scattered across the board.

In Iowa, there are many financial aid and assistance programs, backed by research, that have served communities in need. These services span help with mortgages, child care, food assistance, free legal advice, emergency shelters, and more. They cover different counties and cities across Iowa and serve those in the Hawkeye State whom are desperately in need.

The attention to gaps in the country’s economy, workforce, and other areas gives way to improving opportunities for the population in need. While the number of people living in poverty as well as unemployment rates continue to decline, it’s imperative that our community continues paying attention.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.