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Average Missourians Need Help Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

New Missouri Poverty Report Highlights Challenges Average Missourians Face

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missourians to End Poverty coalition, in partnership with Missouri Community Action Network, announces the release of its 2020 Missouri Poverty Report. This 20-page report is a comprehensive snapshot of key poverty-related data points in Missouri, updated and expanded from the 2018 edition.

Like the 2018 report, this version is organized by the five elements of poverty, which all have an impact on the health and well-being of individuals and families: economic and family security, education, food and nutrition, health, and housing and energy. In addition to an exploration of statistics related to the five elements of poverty, the 2020 report provides an analysis of Missouri’s urban and rural communities and any related impact on poverty, along with suggestions for programs and solutions that help address poverty.

The data for the report was collected prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and as such, the information provides a baseline of the state’s economy prior to the economic downturn due to COVID-19. This data is critical as governments, nonprofits, and businesses determine how to stabilize the economy and provide supports to Missourians who may need assistance during this unprecedented time in our state’s and nation’s history.

Before the pandemic, Missouri saw a decline in poverty from a 10-year high of 16.2% in 2012 to 13.2% in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2018 figure accounts for 786,330 Missourians who live below the federal poverty guidelines. However, there are many Missouri families who live above the federal poverty level and who are now being impacted dramatically by COVID-19.

As an example, the 2020 Missouri Poverty Report highlights what might be a typical Missouri family of four, with both parents working close to full-time at minimum wage. Annual wages earned by the two parents bring the family’s yearly gross income to $34,398. Even though caring for a family of four takes far more than $35,000 annually, this family is not in poverty – at least not according to the 2020 federal poverty guidelines. Because the family’s income is more than the federal poverty guidelines, they would not be eligible for many governmental assistance programs, even though the family struggles to make ends meet. The story of this typical Missouri family shows that:

  • Income and wages impact the overall economic security of a family;
  • Lack of education could impact earning potential and employment;
  • Food insecurity can impact a child’s ability to learn and a worker’s ability to focus on her/his job;
  • Lack of health insurance could leave someone with insurmountable medical debt; and
  • Substandard housing could lead to drastically high heating bills during cold Missouri winters.  

These challenges provide a glimpse into some of the ways the five elements of poverty are interconnected. The current COVID-19 pandemic only magnifies the challenges average Missourians face. While safety net programs and nonprofit organizations have helped people and lowered the poverty rate since the Great Recession, additional supports like those recently passed by Congress in the CARES Act are imperative to help sustain safety net programs and organizations during this time. Such federal stimulus packages, which include expansion of eligibility for safety net programs, will help everyday Missourians and families who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

To read the full 2020 Missouri Poverty report, visit All Missourians are encouraged to download the report for personal education, local outreach, advocacy, and informed decision-making. If you would like more information about the report, please contact Missouri CAN’s Director of Public Affairs and Community Engagement and Missourians to End Poverty Chairperson, Jessica Hoey, at (573) 634-2969 ext. 31, or email

Missourians to End Poverty is a coalition of individuals, advocates, businesses, faith-based organizations, non-profits and government agencies that have come together around a shared vision – the vision of a just society of shared responsibility by individuals, communities, businesses, and government in which all individuals are respected, have opportunities to reach their full potential, and are embraced as participants in thriving, diverse, sustainable communities. Missouri Community Action Network is the statewide association of Missouri’s 19 Community Action Agencies and has convened the Missourians to End Poverty coalition since 2009.