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      McAllen MSA has nation's highest poverty rate

      A census report released this week shows that McAllen, Edinburg, and Mission Metropolitan Statistical Areas have the highest poverty rate in the United States with 35.5% of people below the poverty line. No one has seen more of this than workers at the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission in Hidalgo County. They say there has been a definite increase in people receiving food stamps. "It does show we have quite a bit of poverty in our counties," said Dago Garza, Public Information Officer for HHSC. "That combined with people insecure about the economy the numbers have increased." Many argue that part of the Valley has been poverty stricken for so long that getting out is difficult. "Those legacy still carry over today," said Matt Ruszczak, Vice President of Business for the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. "So some of that reduced income that we experienced back in the day still impact individuals today." Ruszczak said one way to reduce the poverty levels is education. "Education attainment in the Valley--historically has been weak but recently its been spurring," said Ruszczak. "With poverty rates, what we'll see when it comes to poverty rates is the situation getting better as our economy continues to grow and more individuals are more positively impacted." To put this into perspective| The U.S. poverty rate is defined by a family of four (with two children) earning less than $22,000 a year. In Hidalgo County the average annual income is $44,000...with about 7.5 % attaining higher education. In McAllen, those numbers are higher.

      The average yearly earnings are about $55,000 and higher education is over 15 percent. Tips to remember when applying for Food Stamps or any other assistance is to have all of your will make the process easier for you and those processing your application. If you have a bank account or checking account make sure to bring that information with you.Also, bring a letter verifying where you live and who lives with you...that information will be requested. Make sure the information on your application is correct. The most important tip of all...DON'T MISS YOUR SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT...if you do that slows down the process.

      "People come here and expect an impoverished area and they arrive here and see growth and development."