CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Poorer families often need short-term financial assistance when family members lose jobs or face serious health problems.
State government leaders should reduce current requirements that those families must deplete all their savings and assets before they can qualify to receive short-term assistance.
Those were the themes during a roundtable discussion on Wednesday afternoon hosted by the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families (WVASF) at the Charleston Area Alliance Conference Center on Smith Street in Charleston.
Michelle Foster, CEO of the Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action, formally released a new report about the economics in all 50 states that was prepared by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).
The study -- Assets & Opportunity Scorecard -- found 47 percent of all West Virginians have almost no savings to fall back on when they lose their main source of income.
WVASF Marketing and Outreach Manager Sarah Vintorini said her group helps people "plan for their financial future."
Foster said West Virginia has one of the nation's highest percentages of low-wage jobs, more than 30 percent, compared to 25 percent nationally.
"Low-wage jobs are a major issue in this state. Sub-prime lending is another major issue. We also have a lower math and reading efficiency, and a lower rate of college graduation than surrounding states.
"A lot of work needs to be done," Foster said.
Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said churches, community centers and local health centers are major assets helping the welfare of local citizens.
"But our philanthropic and foundation assets are very low. West Virginia ranks 49th in those assets per capita."
West Virginia has one of the highest percentages of residents who own their own homes.
"But the median value of homes in West Virginia was $99,000 in 2011 -- the lowest in the country," Boettner said. "Mobile homes are 17 percent of our housing stock."
The Rev. Dennis Sparks, a former executive director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, runs Sparks Innovative, which lobbies state legislators and urges them to make changes to benefit West Virginia residents.