It says more than 12,000 people live in poverty, many with kids.
The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs has released its annual Poverty Fact Sheet. The local non-profit says Frederick County is one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in Maryland, with a median family income of more than $80,000 annually. But over 12,000 people live in poverty, including many families with children.
"Although there are many people doing very well in Frederick County, there are some that are still struggling. The economy has picked up a bit, but there's still some areas of need," says Reverend Brian Scott, the Executive Director of the Religious Coalition.
He says housing is probably the biggest expense many low income families face. Citing US Department of Housing and Urban Development statistics, the Religious Coalition says the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Frederick County is $900, and a two-bedroom unit is $1,070. In Carroll County, a one-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $710 per month, and a two-bedroom unit is $850. A one-bedroom unit in Washington County rents for $630, and a two-bedroom apartment's rent is $820.
"Housing is taking up an increasingly greater amount of people's income. So it presents challenges," says Reverend Scott. He says a two-bedroom apartment for two adults and two children in Frederick County will cost about $12,840 a year. But a person with a minimum wage job may not make much more than $15,000 annually, says Scott.
Another expense facing low income families is health care, particularly prescription medications. He says cuts in government funding for assistance programs are having an impact. While some people may get to the see a physician and other health care professionals, they still have to pay for prescriptions. If they don't have health insurance, they often come to the Religious Coalition for help in paying for their medications. "This year, we'll be able to serve 90 less because of the budget cuts that have occurred," says Reverend Scott.
The Poverty Fact Sheet says 450 people in Frederick County became unemployed between December, 2012 and January, 2013. The Religious Coalition also cites statistics from the Frederick County School System that as of April, 2013, there were more than 600 homeless students attending school, a jump from 571 the year before.
The Fact Sheet says in January, 2013, Food Stamps were distributed to 10,725 adults and 8,837 children, an increase of 8.2% from 2012. (The Religious Coalition is citing statistics from the County's Department of Social Services.)
Along with all of this, Reverend Scott says there are families that are in danger of falling into poverty. All it takes is a disaster, like a job loss or a medical emergency. "There are still challenges out there that folks are either in poverty, or risk of poverty.
There are politicians who say that government at all levels should have a minimal or non-existant role in helping the poor. It should all be left to charitable organizations like the Religious Coalition. But Reverend Scott thinks the public and private sectors should work together. "I think there is a number of places for partnerships of all kind, and we historically have had partnerships of all kind, and still continue those partnerships with the county, state and the federal level, or partnerships with organizations or churches," he says. "As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is Lord, and He's not Lord of part of life; He's Lord of all life, and that include wherever we are, and whatever way in which we work."
He says the Religious Coalition puts out the Poverty Fact Sheet to remind people that poverty exists in this very wealthy county, and to encourage citizens to step up and help "our neighbors in need" by either volunteering or making contributions.