N.J. hits highest level of poverty in a half century

 (Mel Evans/AP Photo, file)

(Mel Evans/AP Photo, file)

A new report says poverty in New Jersey has reached a record high.

The annual Poverty Benchmarks says the number of people in New Jersey who can’t meet their day-to-day needs is the highest in five decades.

Due to the high cost of living, a family needs about 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to survive in the Garden State, according to Melville Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey.

“At the 250 percent level of the federal poverty rate, there are over 2.7 million individuals in this state who are experiencing some significant deprivation in one or more, sometimes many, areas of basic human need,” Miller said.

Camden leads the state with the highest concentration of poverty.

At times, government agencies are not aware or don’t understand why people are in trouble, he said.

“The major problem with the federal poverty level is it makes no distinction among the states — except Alaska and Hawaii — with regional costs differences,” he said. “In a place like Jersey, it’s not a realistic measure.”

Miller says the cost of housing is the leading reason it’s so expensive to live in the Garden State — and so hard to make ends meet in New Jersey.

The Poverty Benchmarks Report is an ongoing project of the Poverty Research Institute, which was founded by Legal Services of New Jersey in 1997.

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