Despite a staggering presentation on poverty within Santa Barbara County — which showed almost 75,000 people were living below the federal poverty line — and pleas from nonprofit leaders Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors didn’t have the votes to fund the $30,000 needed to conduct a coordinated, countywide poverty study. The money would have been matched by a federal grant.
County Social Services Director Kathy Gallagher said 18 percent of county residents live below the federal poverty line — $22,050 for a family of four — an increase from 11.9 percent in 2007. The median 2010 income for a county family was $66,848, while the standard in the county for a family of four to meet “basic needs” was $66,779. The county has an 8.6 percent unemployment rate, with the rate as high as 15 percent in Lompoc. There are 20,963 county children living in poverty, while 7.1 percent of seniors live in poverty. “Poverty destroys dreams, destroys ambition and hope,” Gallagher said.
Despite a plea from 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal to consider the issue, the two North County supervisors weren’t convinced the study was needed as a lot of information is already available as shown by Gallagher’s presentation. Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino was one of the two dissenting votes. “If I thought this study would help one family get out of poverty, I would spend twice as much money to accomplish that,” he said.
But supporters said the money could provide in-depth analysis on pockets of poverty hidden in the county, how it is impacting those populations, and what can be done to change the trajectory of those families and provide a safety net for those in need. “Do we have a complete picture or could we do better to figure out where the needs are,” Carbajal asked, “where there might be overlap in services, and where there may be unexpected trends developing?”