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N.H. ranks lowest in poverty, but some say more to story

NASHUA – The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in New Hampshire is often as clear as someone parking a Porsche along the Main Street sidewalk – and then walking past a homeless person as soon as he or she exits the foreign luxury vehicle.

New U.S. Census Bureau Data show New Hampshire with the nation’s lowest poverty rate at just 6.4% for the last three years. In addition, the state’s unemployment rate is just 2.5%.

“Today’s news reaffirms that our pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda is getting the job done for the people of New Hampshire,” Gov. Chris Sununu said upon learning of the state’s low poverty rate this week. “With the lowest poverty rate in the nation over the last three years, combined with the fact that more people working than ever before, the New Hampshire economy is roaring.”

Many New Hampshire residents are often known to often enjoy the finer things in life, whether this includes expensive automobiles, boats, foods and beverages, clothing, jewelry, opulent homes, exclusive club memberships, or other means.

However, there is an entire different segment of society that is struggling. An example of this is that Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter officials are hoping to raise $3 million to transform the former Sacred Heart School at 35 Spring St. into a new homeless refuge to accommodate Nashua’s growing homeless population.

“It is true that New Hampshire as a state has a very low rate of people living below the poverty level,” NSKS Executive Director Michael Reinke said. “At the same time, the governor’s statement, fails to mention and even obfuscates the fact that New Hampshire is doing far less than surrounding states to support those people who are working full-time and still can’t make ends meet.”

United Way of Greater Nashua President Mike Apfelberg said the poverty rate does not paint a complete picture of the situation. This is due to, in his words:

“Wage stagnation,”

• An “extreme shortage of affordable housing,” and

• An “extreme lack of affordable child care for working families.”

“If you are in a job which has experienced wage stagnation and at the same time want to live in the community where you work and cannot afford a place to live because of the extreme shortage of affordable housing, well for that person, it doesn’t matter that New Hampshire has a low poverty rate,” Apfelberg said.

However, Apfelberg said Sununu is correct to point out that “a rising tide raises all boats.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokeswoman Holly Shulman alleged Sununu has little regard for those “struggling to make ends meet.”

“Chris Sununu took a political victory lap, while more than 80,000 Granite Staters still live in poverty today. Maybe Chris Sununu should spend less time bragging about a job not very well done, and instead reverse his shameful veto and sign into law a minimum wage which would directly help those who need it most,” Shulman said.

In August, Sununu vetoed Senate Bill 10, which would have raised New Hampshire’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $12 per hour by Jan. 1, 2022.

If an employee earning the current $7.25 minimum wage worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks in a year, he or she would realize an annual salary of $15,080, or $290 per week.

However, Sununu said less than 1% of Granite Staters earned minimum wage in 2018, with most of those being employees who also collected tips.

“Advocates of SB 10 seem to think that the government can raise the price of labor without reducing the amount of workers that will be hired,” Sununu stated in his veto message for the minimum wage bill. “I will not be the governor that signs a bill that will lead to lost jobs, cut hours, and less money in the pockets of hardworking Granite Staters.”

As the political battle for wages and New Hampshire’s $13 billion two-year operating budget continues, Sununu adds that his work continues helping the economy.

“We have opened up doors of opportunity here in the Granite State like never before,” Sununu said.