Harford families need $62,000 to cover basic costs, study says

Just five years ago, a Harford County family of one adult, one school-age child and one preschooler needed an annual income of about $54,000 to make ends meet. That family today would need nearly $62,000, a new study shows.

That number covers basic costs, including housing, child care, transportation, taxes and miscellaneous costs, according to the Self-Sufficiency Study compiled by researchers at the University of Washington School of Social Work, in cooperation with the Maryland Community Action Partnership.

Jerry Reyerson, the director of the Harford County Department of Social Services, said the recession has been especially hard for the middle class.

"I have seen many people come in and apply for our [department's] benefits, saying that they would never have thought they would have been here," he said.

The biggest jumps have been in the populations of people needing temporary cash assistance and food stamps, Reyerson said.

About 4,100 Harford County residents were receiving food stamps in 2007, Reyerson said. For 2011, that number has more than doubled to about 8,400.

These increased needs have led to shortfalls in some of the services, Reyerson said.

"The numbers are higher than what was estimated for this year, and there is a higher demand for these services," Reyerson said. "But the money is not all there anymore, unfortunately."

One of Harford County's biggest shortfalls is with day-care programs. Reyerson said that the demand since the start of the recession has left his department able to offer help with daycare only to residents on temporary cash assistance — a federal program that provides cash assistance to families with dependent children when the available resources cannot fully address the family's needs. All others, he said, are put on a waiting list.

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