Welcome to California, where poverty is also a pandemic

The world’s fifth largest economy may be in line for a new boss. When polls close on Tuesday, a statewide vote on whether to remember California Governor Gavin Newsom will be wrapped up. At least one -third of registered voters have already voted. With all the attention on Newsom potentially in need of a moving truck, other important news can be noticed. Tuesday is also the day the U.S. Census Bureau released poverty statistics for 2020. In 2019, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation.

The Census Bureau came out with a better way to measure poverty a decade ago, one that adjusts for the fact that, say, living in Los Angeles is more expensive than living in Jackson, Mississippi.

And even though California has one of the strongest social safety nets in the country, 17% of its residents will be impoverished in 2019.

“Housing actually costs more than the added benefit from social policy programs,” said Caroline Danielson, with the Public Policy Institute of California.

Even with the state’s record high unemployment in 2020, he expects substantial federal assistance to reduce the poverty rate. But struggling Californians may benefit less than other states.

“There’s also an immigration factor … so kids are usually eligible for benefits, but sometimes their parents aren’t,” Danielson said.

California has the highest share of immigrants in the country, and many of those families live in the Central Valley, a large agricultural region often overshadowed by the San Francisco Bay Area and LA.

“We’re a big state, so you know, in some respects we have parts of the country that would look rich in affluent areas, but we also have areas that are among the poorest of the poorest,” said Chris Hoene, director of California Budget & Policy Center.

Hundreds of thousands of low-income Californians have left the state in recent years.

Michael Flood is CEO of LA Regional Food Bank. He said relocation is a frequent topic among those waiting for time for food outside the South LA headquarters.

“Just picking and moving to another city isn’t necessarily something that’s going to be successful,” Flood said.

Because of the rent, other parts of the country are starting to look similar to California.

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