Josh Dulaney, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 10/23/2011 01:16:17 AM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO — One staggering number tells the economic story of nearly half the city’s residents: $523,942,368.

More than half a billion dollars — that’s the amount of welfare assistance that is now pumped into the city annually, according to a report prepared by the county’s Legislation and Research Unit, Human Services Group.

The total assistance outweighs that of Fontana and Ontario combined.

“It’s almost depressing,” 1st Ward Councilwoman Virginia Marquez said. “And there’s really no quick solution to this.”

Nearly 46 percent of the city’s residents are on some form of welfare – be it cash benefits, food stamps or Medi-Cal benefits.

Among them is Tyisha Carrell, a 24-year-old mother of two, who said she stretches $326 in food stamps to feed her family and “survive the month.”

Officials say the assistance isn’t a cure-all to the poverty that plagues the city.

“We want that number to go down because we want folks to get jobs, because we want folks to stabilize their lives and be contributors to the city,” said Kent Paxton, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

Indeed, jobs are among the biggest concerns of Marquez’s constituents.

“They ask me point-blank: do you know of anybody who is hiring?” Marquez said.

But with the national economy gasping for air, and the regional economy hobbling on low-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees, officials no longer pretend to see an end in sight.

After a slight dip in 2006, the level of government assistance to residents here has increased 21 percent.

To read entire story, click here.