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Black children in Wisconsin continue to struggle to afford basic needs, report finds

Posted at 6:13 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 19:13:28-04

Every county in Wisconsin has new insight into the magnitude of just how many families are struggling to stay afloat.

A new report from the United Way shows at least 73 percent of black children statewide lived in households that could not afford the basics in 2019. That is compared to 29 percent of white children. Three years later, the pandemic has exacerbated this problem even more.

Nicole Goins works full-time to make sure her kids have the best opportunities possible. But for her, and so many other parents, it has felt like a constant uphill battle from day one.

“It's something I actually encountered even as a child,” Goins said. “We woke up every day and got ourselves to school because my mom was working hard at her job before the sun even rose. We watched her work just as hard as many other women, but struggle to get ahead. When we were bused to school in the suburbs from the inner city, my siblings and I were very aware of how different our lives were from our peers.”

“Things like buying a home, or trying to climb the professional ladder take more,” Goins continued. “It is sad. You and I could be doing the same job, but you are making $50,000 and I am making $25,000 because you are white, and I am black.”

The latest research proves her point.

In Kenosha County, for example, the median household income for a white adult ($67,300) is more than double what it is for a black adult ($33,400).

This research is part of the latest study by the United Way, which every year analyzes families classified as "ALICE” - asset-limited, income-constrained, employed. Households that earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. At least 72 percent of black children in Kenosha County live in these households.

“Parents are working 40 hours a week or more, and are barely making ends meet,” said Carolynn Friesch, the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of United Way of Kenosha County. “That is a real issue.”

An issue compounded by the fact that the cost of everything is going up.

“My job is to go in and check on limited-income families, and they are really struggling more than ever before,” said Arturo Perez, Family Preservation Coordinator with the Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services, Inc (KAFASI). “Organizations that help are struggling to do more with less as well. Shelters that provide food baskets and donations weekly, are finding issues keeping food on their shelves.”

Leaders with KAFASI say a big part of the problem is that many parents who work hard at low-paying jobs make too much to qualify for aid that they desperately need, like childcare benefits and rental assistance.

“The systems in which our country created, which were well-intentioned, are broken,” said Katie Oatsvall, Executive Director of KAFASI. “They are not equitable. We preach about the American Dream, but no everyone in our country can contain it simply because it is not actually within reach for everyone. When you do not have the same access to housing or employment, that affects generations of people.”

The key for all of us, is to hear/see these numbers, and work hard to reverse them for future generations.

“My goal as a mom is to change that narrative,” Goins said. “Educate the community. We all need to grow as a society.”

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