The waiting list for Basic Health, Washington’s state-subsidized health plan, has jumped from 49,538 in June 2009 (when the list began) to 136,571 in December 2010 – an increase of over 87,000 people in 18 months. The current average rate of new applications for Basic Health is 5,400 per month (298 per day).
Funding for the Basic Health Plan is eliminated under Governor Gregoire’s proposed budget, to be voted on in the upcoming 2011 legislative session. There are currently 54,000 people with Basic Health insurance in the state.
Source: Washington State Health Care Authority, as of December 30, 2010
Unemployment in the Seattle metropolitan region remains below national and state levels, but high by recent standards. In November 2010, 9.1 percent of the labor force – over 135,000 people in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro area – have been unable to find work, largely due to slow job creation. Just 100 jobs were added to Washington State’s economy between October and November 2010.
King County unemployment has also risen in recent months, most recently stagnating at 8.7 percent, just below the high of 8.8 percent in February 2010.
A new report from the Brookings Institution and First Focus estimates that the child poverty rate in Washington will increase from 16.2% to 18%.
There is a growing need for emergency food assistance across the state and in King County. In FY 2010, there were over 7.8 million visits to food banks in Washington and over 2.2 million visits in King County (see chart). Since the beginning of the recession, total visits to food banks in Washington and King County are up 1.8 million and 548,000, respectively.
Nearly half (49 percent) of all visits to food banks in King County in 2010 were by working-age adults (19 to 54), one-third (32 percent) by children (under 18), and one-fifth (20 percent) by adults age 55 and older.
Source: Washington State Emergency Food Assistance Program
The most recent data from the U.S. Census shows nearly 7,000 more children living in poverty in 2009 compared to 2008. In 2009, 11.8 percent of children in King County – nearly 48,000 -were living in poverty. Children have the highest poverty rates compared to other age groups. For reference, poverty is defined as having an income below $22,050 for a family of four.
Source: American Community Survey 2009
Growing up in poverty has substantial individual, social, and economic costs. Compared to their economically secure peers, children who grow up in poverty are more likely to experience negative health outcomes, perform poorly in school, and become involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Pre-recession data estimated that children who grow up in poverty cost the U.S. $500 billion annually in the form of foregone earnings as adults, poor health outcomes, and involvement with the criminal justice system.