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Bleak economic report highlights rise in food stamp participants; some say jobs remain the key


Poughkeepsie, NY – A new report spells out a bleak economic outlook in the Hudson Valley. WAMC's Greg Fry reports that one eye-catching statistic continues to be a big problem for the region

The most recent quarterly report from the Marist College Bureau of Economic Research highlights a weakening economy in the region. Labor force participation is down, according to the bureau's numbers, as the number of people working in seven Hudson Valley counties has dropped well below peak numbers seen last decade.

However, a number that may raise the most eyebrows is 11, as in, every 1 in 11 persons in the Hudson Valley, during the first quarter of this year, received monthly food-stamp benefits. It translates to a little more than 204-thousand people in the region, according to bureau researchers.

Mark Dunlea heads the Hunger Action Network of New York State. He's surprised the numbers aren't even worse, as he says many factors are playing a role in the struggles families and individuals are facing. Dunlea says the recession hit people at the lower end of the economic spectrum. He says for a lot of middle and working class New Yorkers, it is still tough out there.

Jan Whitman sees the problems that people are facing these days. She's the Director of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley. Whitman says demand for assistance is still increasing, as it has for the past two years. Whitman has worked for the Food Bank for 23 years, and says for the first time in her memory, there are people in her own personal life who are losing their jobs and homes. She says when you see that, you recognize that something major is going on in the country.

Whitman says she's not surprised to hear that 1 in 11 in the Hudson Valley are receiving food-stamp benefits. Dunlea says he's encouraged that the state has made it easier to apply for food stamps, but is disappointed at a zero increase in funding for emergency food programs in this year's state budget. However, Dunlea says there's one major concern, and that's jobs. He says the state and federal governments aren't putting a focus on jobs for low-income people.

Speaking last month in the Hudson Valley, William Dudley, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said the economic recovery in the region was moving at a good pace, despite a soft patch in growth during the first quarter of this year. Much of his focus has switched to jobs, and not economic factors like high oil prices. Dudley says there's been improvement, but says we are far away from where we want to be.

Dunlea indicates that putting people back to work is the key.

Marist Bureau of Economic Research Report

NYS Department of Labor statistics