With unemployment in the District of Columbia at the highest level in more than 30 years, there are signs that thousands of DC residents are struggling to meet their basic needs. Incomes have fallen and poverty has increased, and as a result a growing number of households are having trouble feeding their families and paying housing bills. There also are signs that more families are reaching out for emergency aid or basic assistance.
- Housing and Homelessness: The number of DC households that have had their electricity or gas cut off due to non-payment has grown sharply. Home foreclosures also have increased, and 2009 witnessed a large rise in homelessness among families with children.
- Hunger: Two of five children in the District suffer from hunger. More residents are turning to school lunches and food stamps for support, and demand for emergency food help has increased.
- Child abuse and neglect: The number of reported cases of child neglect and abuse has increased substantially over the past two years. The stresses associated with poverty are considered major contributing factors to child neglect.
The recession also is adversely affecting DC’s finances and its ability to meet these needs. Despite increasing hardship, local funding has been cut in recent years for some key services that could help residents hurt by the recession ‘ including emergency rent and utility assistance. Moreover, the proposed FY 2011 budget includes new cuts that could affect families in crisis, including elimination of a “rapid housing” program that helps stabilize families and keep children out of foster care.
Rising Unemployment Is Affecting Low-Income Families and Communities
The impact of the recession is falling especially hard on low-income families in the District of Columbia. Unemployment has increased sharply, with the largest increases occurring in DC’s lowest-income communities. Rising unemployment appears to have contributed to a significant increase in poverty.