Tennessee state figures show low Chattanooga poverty rates

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Economists say that “a rising tide lifts all ships”. That’s a way to say that a stronger stock market and economy is helping even those earning the lowest wages, but today we heard conflicting stories about poverty in Chattanooga.

There are fewer Chattanoogans living in poverty today, according to new Tennessee state figures.

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The city’s booming economy has created more jobs and opportunity in the last 8 years, despite the fact that salaries are not keeping pace. But there’s another group in the city who are not seeing any change in their standard of living. Many of them are clients of Metropolitcan Ministries, which provides temporary help.

Director Rebecca Whelchel said, “The guests I see aren’t feeling that. The folks we saw, all day today, in rapid fire, they’re not seeing that. And if they don’t see it, I don’t see it.”

In Chattanooga, 20% of local residents are considered to be living in poverty. That compares to 25% in Knoxville and 44% in Memphis, one of the worst in the nation.

Charles Wood believes more jobs are needed locally for those working people—-jobs that they can get and hold.

Charles Wood said, “Some may require technical skills and engineering degrees, but we also need to make sure that jobs are being created for people who have a high school diploma, and that have a GED, and that creates an opportunity to lift people up out of poverty that maybe have been working two or three jobs in the service sector and creating opportunities for kind of entry level jobs but that are full time with benefits with you know retirement and health care and things like that.”

But both ,Woods and Whelchel, believe in prospects for the future,

Woods said, “While we’re really excited about the news, um, we want to make sure that we’re being aggressive and proactive because the reality is that there’s still one in five people in Chattanooga that are in poverty and we need to make sure we can continue to create jobs to help lift those people out of poverty.”

Whelchel agreed, ” We have a wonderful city. We have a very generous city. We have a very beautiful city. But there are those for whom that beauty and that prosperity has not reached, yet.”