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New task force combatting Oswego County's high poverty rate

Payne Horning
Oswego County Legislator Ro Reehil is chairman of a county-wide task force combatting poverty and health issues.

As New York's unemployment rate continues to fall -- even surpassing the national average -- Oswego County is being left behind. Its latest unemployment rate was the second worst in the state.

"Like the rest of the country, you were hit pretty hard by the recession. But unlike other parts of the country that started pulling out and growing jobs after the great recession, you all flat lined and created a new normal," said Rob Krupricka, a consultant Oswego County hired to study its stagnating economy.

Kupricka found that the county has lost 2,400 manufacturing jobs since 2000 -- leading to nearly double the amount of families on food stamps as there were six years ago. Now, one in five Oswego County families are living in poverty.

These revelations are now a map for the county's new task force, which is a developing a 15-year plan to improve Oswego County's health and reduce its poverty. At a meeting Tuesday in Mexico, community  leaders unveiled the work they have accomplished since creating the task force in February. More than 300 have been consulted from all sectors of the county in hopes of identifying the major issues. Development team leader Dan LeClair said the county has reached a turning point.

"It stops here," LeClair said. "That is the message we have got to carry to the rest of the citizens and townships and villages across our county. No more are we going to be last! It stops here, but it also starts here."

Kupricka said because the problem was created over several years, the solution could also take several years.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.