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Poverty in Rural America

If you didn’t hear it, go listen to this NPR story on rural poverty among the elderly poor.

For Harrison County resident Billie Leas, retirement means some reliance on assistance programs. Once a month, she receives a box filled with 35 pounds worth of free, government-commodity food — dried milk, corn flakes, peas, peanut butter, evaporated milk and canned meat, vegetables, fruit and juice.

Leas, a widow close to 80, says she gets by on less than $250 a week. Her husband worked at a coal mine and steel mill, but he died six months short of a pension. So Leas depends on Social Security, most of which goes to rent, heat, power, groceries and medicine. A safety net of county, state and federal programs also helps. Leas says it is difficult to accept this kind of aid. She never imagined she’d still be struggling to get by in retirement.

Listen for the part about the 94 year old women who relies on a government food box to get by. She has very little money left from her monthly Social Security check to buy food after paying her heating and other bills. President Bush wants to cut funding for her monthly food box.

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