Report: More than 29,000 live in poverty, more than 8,000 children

65,000 people are low income in Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon counties

More than 29,000 people living in Crawford, La Crosse, Monore and Vernon counties lives in poverty. That’s according to a new report from CouleeCap, a nonprofit organization serving the needs of low-income families in those four counties.

The Face of Poverty in the Coulee Region report uses the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau to inform and educate the public on what poverty looks like in the area.

The organization said fortunately the numbers aren’t rising, but they also aren’t improving.

The report finds that 14 percent of the residents in four county service area lives at or below that poverty line.

A family of four is considered poor by the federal government if its gross cash income is less than $24,250; a family of three, $20,090; family of two, $15,930; and an individual $11,770 or less.

But based on those same numbers, even more are considered low income.

“So more than 65,000 people in our four county area are considered low income,” Shelly Teadt, director of planning with CouleeCapp, said.

Teadt said while these numbers have stayed relatively flat in recent years, there is one specific demographic seeing a higher number living in poverty.

“Over the last number of years we are seeing the percentage of children who are living in poverty are increasing, especially in Monroe and Vernon counties. It’s approaching almost one out of every four kids live in poverty,” Teadt said.

In all four counties combined, there are 8,061 children under the age of 18 are living in poverty, according to the report.

Teadt said the more than 65,000 people who are considered low income are struggling to afford basic needs such as housing, transportation and food.

The Face of Poverty report said more than 19,000 people received food assistance from a food pantry last year. WAFER, the largest food pantry in the La Crosse area, said it has seen consistently high numbers in recent years.

“When the recession started in 2008, that’s kind of when our service numbers started to go up, we hit a peak in 2011 and while we have come down slightly from that peak, it still remains consistently high,” WAFER Executive Director Erin¬†Waldhart, said.

Teadt said there is a lack of job opportunities paying a living wage for the parents or caregivers in Monroe and Vernon counties. She said that is the No. 1 reason so many kids today are living in poverty in those counties.

Teadt said it is not advocating for a rise in the minimum wage, but said even a slight increase from the current $7.25 an hour to $9 or $10 an hour would have a significant impact on those low income wage earners.