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61.9% of Mississippi households on the brink of financial devastation, report says

cfedlogoJACKSON, Mississippi — Despite an improving national economy, 61.9 percent of Mississippians are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development. The number of households who have little or no savings to cover emergencies or to start building a better life has increased from last year’s 57.7 percent level. The report also found that state policies are doing little to improve the financial security of Mississippi residents.

In CFED’s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, these financially insecure residents lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for even three months in the event of an emergency such as a job loss or health crisis. The majority of Mississippians in this category live below the official income poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four, as well as many who would consider themselves middle class. Fully 31 percent of households earning between $42,625 and $72,696 annually have less than three months of savings (i.e., less than $5,887 for a family of four). Data shows this crisis affects all Mississippi households with no regard for race, marital status or educational background.

The CFED seeks to improve policies and programs that promote financial security and opportunity. The organization is the backbone organization for a national Assets & Opportunity Network, which is comprised of more than 1,300 advocates, service providers, researchers, financial institutions and others representing all 50 states and DC. To learn more about the Assets & Opportunity Network, visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/network.

In the Scorecard, Mississippi ranks last or near the bottom in issue areas such as financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and homeownership, health care and education. The positives from the Scorecard show levels of unemployment, foreclosure and debt are improving, but still, remain too high compared to the rest of the nation. The South, in general, fares far worse to the rest of the nation in many of the same categories as Mississippi.

“In order to overcome this downward spiral for Mississippi families, the state must invest in the building blocks that create, maintain, and grow a strong economy, such as priority areas like education and health care,” said Melbah Smith, director, Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi. “Now, more than ever, is the time for Mississippi to take new innovative approaches to address these areas.”

Highlights of this year’s Scorecard include:

— Today, only one in five adults in Mississippi holds at least a four-year degree.

— Mississippi leads the nation in percentage of residents without a bank account (checking and savings) at 15.1 percent.

— 19.6 percent of Mississippians are uninsured. Health insurance provides important protection for a household’s assets by reducing expenses incurred from a medical emergency or the treatment of a chronic illness that might otherwise require a family to spend down long-term savings, sell off assets or go into debt.

— 35.5 percent of all jobs in the state are low wage jobs, the highest percentage in the nation.

The Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi and the Mississippi Economic Policy Center are encouraging lawmakers and state leaders to enact policies that will help Mississippians earn more and also protect those earnings.

“Mississippi needs to make college more accessible through need based financial aid, restrict predatory lenders who cripple family finances, make health insurance readily available, and further job creation through community development. This problem can’t be solved overnight, but it can be solved,” said Jessica Shappley, policy analyst for the Mississippi Economic Policy Center.

To access the complete Scorecard visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard.



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About Frank Brown

One comment

  1. I am a household with no savings to cover emergencies or build a better life. I have a college degree which I earned right here in our home state thanks to financial aid, and I work full time for a large hospital doing a job which does require specialized training. I have health insurance through work but do not make enough money to meet deductible or copay. The hospital I work for has not given employees a raise in several years now and have no plans to do so in the future. In fact, my department is one of several which have actually seen pay cuts! I own my own home but am barely able to make the mortgage payment. If I do lose my home to foreclosure, it will be a bad situation because rentals are much higher in cost than my mortgage payment.

    Mississippi does have good colleges, and financial aid for that is available to many. There is good health care available in our state. Mississippi needs to work toward improving the economy so that workers are actually earning enough money to live-savings would be a bonus!

    A college degree seems not worth the trouble to achieve if it only means earning wages that are barely above minimum. A job seems so much less worth having if a person can barely earn enough money to pay rent/mortgage-never mind food, utilities, clothing, fuel, etc., then have nothing left for the smallest item outside an overstretched budget. The cost of living in MS far exceeds the wages paid-especially in the post-Katrina Coast area where the price of everything from housing to groceries soared immediately after the storm yet wages did not.

    We can have colleges on every corner with financial aid to send everybody to school, but it will do absolutely no good if a college graduate isn’t going to earn enough money to have 2 pennies to rub together after paying for bare basics. Providing healthcare insurance and making health care “available” does no good if a person cannot meet the deductible/copay to see a doctor. In my case, skin cancer is going untreated. There are many worse off.

    I am not optimistic about our state officials actually addressing this issue despite our state ranking so low in this area. Articles such as this one are doing a service in informing people that once again we rank below most of the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, there is not and probably will never be any action toward correcting this issue. Our state officials seem to enjoy governing an impoverished state instead of trying to improve it-after all, they aren’t counting pennies to buy milk for the kids or a gallon of gas to make it to that low paying job. Soon I’ll be reading an article entitled “Will the last one to leave the state of MS please turn out the lights?” because our young people are going to get their college degrees and move to a place where they can earn a living instead of working to get deeper in debt!

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