1. Athens' economy is not diverse enough, and this limits jobs and drives down wage rates.
    • The economy is too dependent on UGA and the two regional medical centers.
    • There are inadequate strategies in place to encourage retention and expansion of existing businesses.
    • There are inadequate strategies to attract industries that will enhance the social, environmental and economic quality of life in Athens.
    • Regional economic development efforts are inconsistent.
  2. Many jobs pay wages that do not meet the local cost of living.
    • Livable wage estimates are determined by local factors such as the cost of housing, child care, transportation, health care, etc. In Athens, local estimates of a livable wage range from $10.50/hr with benefits to $14/hr without benefits.
  3. There is a lack of coordination and funding for strategies that prepare students and adults for the workforce.
    • Students and adults do not have enough access to training in business skills, financial literacy and entrepreneurialism.
    • Lack of hope prevents students and adults from acting on career dreams.

Recurring Themes and Challenges

  1. The notion that there exists a welfare system that "pays people not to work" is a myth. Welfare reform has required that low income families with dependent children must be transitioning to employment in order to receive benefits.
    • The total number of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families cases in Clarke County has decreased by 40% over the past two years.
  2. High levels of poverty are a burden to those who live in poverty and work to undermine the economy of the entire community.
  3. Our institutions and systems have failed to develop collaborative strategies that adequately address the challenges of poverty.
    • There is a culture of poverty in Athens that passes from generation to generation.
    • There is little innovation in developing new programs, opportunities and collaborations to break the cycle of poverty.
  4. A good education is one of the major factors in helping to overcome poverty.
    • An incomplete education -- lack of high school diploma, GED, literacy in English, workforce skills, etc. -- is a serious challenge to decreasing poverty in Athens.
    • Persons who drop out of school have few job options in Athens-Clarke County.
  5. Athens has an unskilled workforce that is a barrier to economic development.
  6. There is a lack of effective coordination and collaboration among faith-based organizations, non-profits, schools, universities and government agencies.
    • There are serious problems getting information to the public about existing assistance programs.
    • There is a lack of specialized support for immigrant populations.
    • There are gaps in services.
  7. Effective strategies to address racism and class issues are lacking.
    • In Athens-Clarke County the consequences of poverty fall mostly on African Americans and, increasingly, on our growing Latino population.
    • There is a hesitancy, by all races, to have honest dialogue about the impact of race and class as they relate to poverty.
  8. There are disincentives built into various systems that make it difficult to break the poverty cycle.