Recent news reports about the economy bouncing back and unemployment going down may be premature, especially in Arizona.
The latest U.S. Census figures from 2012 show that Arizona has the fifth highest poverty rate in the country, with roughly 19 percent of state residents at 100 percent below the poverty line.
A family of four making less than $23,492 a year is considered at the poverty line.
Cynthia Zwick is the executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association, a state agency devoted to helping folks in need find housing, medical treatment and jobs.
"There's a myth that folks needing assistance right now are not looking for work, or are unemployed," Zwick said. "The reality is that many of them are employed. Many of them are working more than one job, but they still can't afford to support families on wages they are earning."
Zwick said that if state lawmakers would increase Arizona's minimum wage, which is now $7.80 an hour, it could make a big difference in the number of people in poverty.
She would also like to see more state funding for early childhood development, social and human services and childcare assistance.
Zwick said if Arizona lawmakers would make helping the "working poor" more of a priority, we could reduce the number of people needing government assistance.
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