What Republicans Won't Cut
Scott County Virginia Economic Backwater
by Lewis Loflin
Kingsport Times-News (May 22nd, 2010) The Scott County Ministerial Association, which runs the food pantry, is a nondenominational group of evangelical churches whose mission is to address the poverty needs in the county, has fallen on hard times worse than usual.
The Times-News notes, "The strain of supporting families during a prolonged economic recession has started to take its toll on the Scott County Cooperative Ministries Food Pantry in Gate City...the last few weeks have been as bad as it gets for the non-profit's finances."
This is the same County where the Tobacco Commission plans to give away $115,000 to a horse camp. Grant #2057 to the Scott County Regional Horse Association and their Scott County Horse Park Camp Ground will get $115,000. This stupidity says it all. Jobs created is zero. This is another 501(c) and their website is at www.schorse.org.
The taxpayers have no business funding this nonsense and it's compliments of Delegate Terry G. Kilgore longtime member of the Tobacco Commission. While Terry and pals go horse riding, Scott County remains one of the poorest counties in Virginia and the nation. They're even using prison labor on the construction to make sure the common people don't see a penny of the funds! Total project cost is $204,560.
The statistics for Scott County, Virginia like much of the rest of the region is dismal. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) even with millions in government spending, Scott County went from "distressed" (bottom 10% in the nation) in FY 2002 to "transitional" (transitioning between strong and weak economies) in FY 2003-2008, to "at risk" (back to the bottom 10%) for 2009-2011.
This is due largely to declining government spending. The ARC notes the per-capita income for Scott County for 2007 is about $24,000, yet when we subtract transfer payments (welfare, social security, etc) the number plummets to $16,000. Fully one-third of the County's income is from welfare, but we still have money for horse camps.
Lack of housing is another concern for the misery index in Scott County and the region. According to the Virginia Housing Coalition for this region 20 percent of homeowners and 25 percent of renters live in mobile homes; The number of renters paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income for housing - which is the government's recommended ceiling - increased from 29 percent to 33 percent; The number of people living at or below the poverty level in Southwest Virginia increased from 61,600 in 2000 to more than 72,000 in 2005. (BHC Nov 04, 2007)
Because of the poverty pay-scales in the region and if one is lucky enough to inherit some land, the report notes, "70 percent of the single-family homes purchased in the past 15 years have been manufactured homes." Even at $10 an hour to stay under the government 30% figure (not realistic because the figure doesn't include skyrocketing utility rates), that's a maximum rent of $520 per month.
Scott County is in such bad shape much of it's workforce at the taxpayer subsidized industrial park in Duffield have to commute from Tennessee. Other officials note many of the jobs at this industrial simply don't pay enough to afford the high cost of living relative to income in the County.
As for the hungry in our "prolonged" recession the food pantry just doesn't have enough to meet the demand for the 400 families or more than 1,000 people they help each month. As if increases in demand isn't bad enough, costs have also exploded. That $115,000 could operate this food pantry for years.
For more information, contact the food bank office at (276) 386-9400 and make a donation. I don't think they take horses. Posted June 8, 2010.
From the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) for Scott County:
In Scott County, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $557. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $1,857 monthly or $22,280 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $10.71.
In Scott County, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $8.15 an hour. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 53 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, working 40 hours per week year-round, a household must include 1.3 worker(s) earning the mean renter wage in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.
Monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for an individual are $674 in Scott County. If SSI represents an individual's sole source of income, $202 in monthly rent is affordable, while the FMR for a one-bedroom is $448.
Compare Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol MSA:
In Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol MSA, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $557. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $1,857 monthly or $22,280 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $10.71.
In Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol MSA, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $9.80 an hour. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 44 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, working 40 hours per week year-round, a household must include 1.1 worker(s) earning the mean renter wage in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.
Monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for an individual are $674 in Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol MSA. If SSI represents an individual's sole source of income, $202 in monthly rent is affordable, while the FMR for a one-bedroom is $448.
A unit is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30% of the renter's income. Percent of population that is renters is 25%. Now factor in the massive number of people on welfare and SSI and the housing picture is even more bleak.
Note that recent job offerings from the Virginia Employment Commission for the Bristol Virginia area was $8.50 an hour from a taxpayer subsidized call center, while McDonald's offered $9.00 an hour. What is wrong with this picture? The Virginia Department of Social Services reports in 2009 that "Virginia's poverty rate has not decreased substantially over the last 30 years." Finally, the Tobacco Commission's own 2008 Blue Panel Study notes:
Given the existing state of the Southside and Southwest economies, it is fair to ask whether the expenditure of over $400 million by the TICR since the year 2000 on "regional transformation" projects has had the desired transformative effect on the regions...Despite this spending, population in the region continues to decline, wage rates still lag behind the rest of the state, there is persistent high unemployment and poor educational attainment is still endemic.
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