Like the seemingly endless rain that has thoroughly soaked eastern North Carolina in recent days, the nation's economic troubles have proved to be a perfect storm in this state. Estimates released this week from the American Community Survey show the financial turmoil swelled the ranks of the poor in 2009, landing 1.47 million state residents below the poverty line.
That number should give pause to lawmakers next year as they face a revenue shortfall projected to be about $3 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year. Closing that gap will require tough decisions, but the Legislature must take care to protect public services that assist the growing legions in poverty and preserve investments in education, which offers the most promising route to prosperity.
While poverty has proven itself to be a chronic affliction in North Carolina, and particularly in the eastern counties, the problem appears to be worsening. Statistics released this week through the U.S. Census Bureau found an increase of 169,000 state residents now living below the poverty line. Some 16.3 percent of the state's population qualifies as poor, and North Carolina is saddled with the 14th highest poverty rate in the nation.
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