Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/15/2011 06:18:04 PM PDT

This year, the number of people who receive some type of welfare in the city of San Bernardino, 96,380, is 140 percent larger than the entire population of Redlands, 68,747.

During this severe economic downturn, the financially unhealthy areas of San Bernardino County got way worse and the healthy ones largely stayed that way, a new report on welfare population statistics shows.

Many East Valley cities, including San Bernardino, Colton and Rialto, which had a high percentage of residents on welfare during the boom years, have seen a dramatic growth in those ranks, says the recently completed study by San Bernardino County government officials.

High Desert cities, including Adelanto, Barstow, Hesperia and Victorville, echo that scenario.

But many West End cities, including Chino, Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland, had relatively smaller numbers of people on some form of public assistance during the boom years. And in the recession, the uptick has been less severe.

Hardest hit cities, in terms of residents moving onto some form of welfare, were Adelanto, Barstow and San Bernardino.

The percentages of those on welfare in these cities – all above 40 percent – summon images of Rust Belt cities like Flint, Mich.

In 2007, before the iron fist of this recession drew blood, 30.7 percent of San Bernardino residents – 62,983 people – received a cash benefit, food stamps or Medi-Cal, or some combination of those three.

In 2011, 45.9 percent of San Bernardino residents – or 96,380 people – received some type of aid, county reports show.

For Adelanto, 30.8 percent – or 8,368 – were on welfare in 2007 and this year there are 14,077 on aid – 44.3 percent of the city’s population.

Barstow’s 2007 percentage was 35.1. It has grown to 46.3 percent this year.

“This is unbelievable,” said University of Redlands economist Johannes Moenius.

“What this tells us is that structural problems not addressed in the boom years really kicked in big time during the recession years,” he said.

“This is very concerning economically for San Bernardino County in its entirety, but mostly for the city of San Bernardino,” said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, medical director of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, the county’s public hospital in Colton.

“This is just amazing as you look at the numbers of people” on welfare, he said.

Moenius and Cal Poly Pomona sociologist Stacy McGoldrick believe an eventual economic recovery will not end the suffering in these hard-hit areas.

The flip side to this are the numbers for cities like Chino, Chino Hills and Rancho Cucamonga.

In Chino Hills, 3.2 percent, or 2,502, were on welfare in 2007 and 5.6 percent, or 4,161, were on welfare in 2011.

In Rancho Cucamonga, 5.3 percent, or 9,198, were on welfare in 2007 and in 2011 those numbers grew to 10.3 percent, or 16,997, county records show.

In the East Valley, Redlands and Loma Linda started with smaller percentages in 2007 and are at less than terrifying numbers in 2011.

In 2007, 10 percent of Redlands residents, or 7,136, were on some type of welfare. This year the county found the percentage had grown to 16.5, or 11,334 residents.

Just a fraction over 9 percent of Loma Linda residents, or 2,039, were on some form of assistance in 2007. This year the county found 12.7 percent, or 2,999, were on welfare.

McGoldrick, an associate professor of sociology and criminology at Cal Poly Pomona, said a multi-pronged approach is needed to improve San Bernardino and some of the other hard-hit communities in the region.

“They just can’t wait for the economy to improve,” she said.

For the people on welfare, the experience “can be debilitating even in a recession,” she said.

People tend to look at the unemployed as being partly responsible for their plight. And those without jobs “tend to blame themselves,” she said. “This is bad for morale. It is debilitating to the whole community to have that many getting welfare.”

Moenius, an associate professor of economics at the University of Redlands School of Business, said extraordinary measures are needed to address the structural deficits in cities like San Bernardino, Barstow and Adelanto.

State and federal agencies would need to authorize aggressive tax incentives for businesses to move into these areas, he said.

And educational deficiencies among the population must be addressed as well, Moenius said.

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