(The Center Square) – U.S. Census Bureau data finds that some Chicago area residents in minority communities now face poverty rates as high as three times the city average.
Shriver Center on Poverty Law President and CEO Audra Wilson is sounding the alarm about recent U.S. Census Bureau data that finds black Chicago area residents now face poverty rates at least three times higher than white residents across the city.
Overall, Black people in Chicago now experience rates of 28.7%, compared with just 10.3% for whites. In neighborhoods such as Riverdale, Fuller Park, Washington Park, East Garfield Park and Englewood the disparity is even more glaring, with all those areas seeing rates of at least 40%, topped by Riverdale at 51%.
Wilson doesn’t hesitate in pointing a finger directly at the powers that be for the burgeoning gap.
“These rising rates are not surprising because they correspond in large part with the elimination of the pandemic related emergency benefits that were given to these families at the height of the pandemic as supplements to their income,” Wilson told The Center Square. “During that period of time we had these benefits, we saw rates of poverty, especially child poverty, and food insecurity decline significantly.”
With many of those programs now a thing of the past, Wilson argues a growing number of families are struggling as much as they ever have.
“Many Black families and workers were struggling even before the pandemic,” she added. “What COVID did was really expose just how severe that gap is between Black workers and their white counterparts.”
Again, Wilson says it’s a crisis that’s needlessly crippling people.
“The reason we know that investment in communities makes a difference is we saw when there was an investment that was made with these emergency benefits,” she said. “We saw the benefits that it had for the community and for those individuals. We saw rates of poverty, especially child poverty, and food insecurity decline significantly. Poverty is not a moral falling it’s a policy choice.”
Through it all, Wilson said she remains confident that the change she is fighting for will ultimately see the light of day.
“I’m very optimistic in the hard work, determination and focus of the advocacy community within the city of Chicago,” she said. “Despite the fact that this is a national problem, Chicago does have a very strong advocacy community that is laser focused on the alleviation of poverty and making sure that some of the most under-resourced communities are getting the support that they need.”
Wilson added she is hopeful newly-elected Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson will keep in place programs from the previous administration and institute others to address the problem.