Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


February 2, 2013

Financial security — Many in W.Va. lack emergency savings

— Times are still tough for many families across the region. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that nearly half of West Virginians have almost no savings to carry them through a crisis such as the loss of a job or a serious health problem. However, the findings of a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development are still alarming.

The report found that 47 percent of residents have no financial cushion, including a majority of residents who live below the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four, the organization said in its 2013 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, the Associated Press reported last week.

The report called people who cannot pay basic living expenses for just three months “liquid asset poor.” A family of four needs more than $5,762 in savings to meet basic needs for three months, the report said.

“In order to cope with the recession’s continued impact, these families have had to prioritize today’s expenses over tomorrow’s goals,” Andrea Levere, the organization’s president, said Wednesday.

The Mountain State was ranked 23rd among the states and the District of Columbia for residents’ ability to become financially secure. Tough economic times, high unemployment rates and recent layoffs in the coal mining industry could all be contributing factors to these woes.

Many across our region have been dependent upon local human service agencies such as the Salvation Army in Princeton and Bluefield, as well as the Bluefield Union Mission, for help with meals, medicine and their heating bills. Those challenges are further multiplied during the winter when high heating bills will often trump other basic necessities. When you are faced with such day-to-day challenges of making ends meet, it is hard to plan and save for the future.

The new report is recommending several policy solutions, including increasing the state minimum wage and the creation of a self-employment assistance program. And the coalition is planning to make those recommendations and others to the state Legislature. The hope is to enact legislation that would promote the financial security of low-wealth persons, according to Michelle Foster of the West Virginia Assets for All Coalition. Foster says the group will be particularly focusing on legislation that would invest in entrepreneurship, increase incomes, connect residents to the financial mainstream, protect homeowners and build assets.

The report evaluated 53 measures, including home ownership, low-wage jobs and the rate of uninsured low-income children in reaching its conclusion that nearly half of the state’s residents lack proper savings.

The report should be viewed as a call to action, and lawmakers in Charleston should be willing to take a serious look at it, as well as the multitude of recommendations being proposed by the coalition.


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