CUMBERLAND — Although Marylanders have the highest median income in the country, Cumberland has been named the poorest city in the state by the New York-based online publication 24/7 Wall Street.
The article, “America’s Poorest Towns, State by State,” named the the cities in each state with the lowest median household income. Cumberland, with a median income of $30,962, was last in Maryland.
With a population of 20,711, Cumberland has a poverty rate of 15.9 percent, which ranks higher than the state poverty rate of 10.1 percent and the national rate of 14.5 percent.
“I don’t put a lot of stock in those statistical studies. You have to look at what they are basing things on,” said Mayor Brian Grim.
Grim said some reports will include the prison population in the statistics.
“That will skew the numbers,” said Grim.
The U.S. Census Bureau sets the national poverty line at an annual income of $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four. The national median income for 2014 was $51,900.
“Cumberland has not recovered the manufacturing jobs that we lost years ago. We have more tourism but many of those jobs are minimum wage,” said Bill Chesno, an associate with real estate firm Carter and Roque and a member of Cumberland’s Economic Development Commission.
Maryland’s statewide median income of $73,538 ranks No. 1 in the U.S.
The bright side, according to Chesno, is that Cumberland is “the poorest in the the richest state.”
The poorest town in West Virginia is Elkins, with Johnstown ranking as the poorest city in Pennsylvania.
Elkins, population 7,189, has a median household income of $33,319 with a poverty rate of 15.4 percent. West Virginia, with an average median income at $41,043, ranks 47th nationally. The state poverty rate is 18.5 percent.
Johnstown, population 20,740, has a median income of $25,542 with a poverty rate of 26.8 percent. With a statewide median income of $52,548, and a poverty rate of 13.7 percent, Pennsylvania ranks 21st in the country.
“Our legislators are working with us and doing a good job. We also have a mayor and City Council who just passed a new economic development plan which is very aggressive in addressing the issues. We are finalizing a plan to bring broadband fiber to downtown,” said Chesno.
“I think there are other cities in other states that are doing worse than Cumberland. It’s not to say we don’t have poverty or homeless issues. But I don’t think a report like that is a reflection of our community,” said Grim.
Grim and Chesno said that statistical reports often don’t include the impact of areas connected to Cumberland such as LaVale or Mineral County, W.Va.
The 24/7 Wall Street article said it recognizes that “poverty in the U.S. is not uniform and varies from place to place.”
Figures do not include food stamps or Medicaid as income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
The article said that “each state has poor towns and some median incomes for these towns rank thousands of dollars below the state average.” Cumberland’s median income is $43,000 below the state average.
Chesno remains optimistic.
“I see nothing but positive for the downtown. The worse is behind for Cumberland,” said Chesno.
He said the strategy of recruiting smaller businesses employing five to seven peopple who earn high wages is the best scenario.
“We need a bunch of singles and not home runs,” said Chesno.