EV cities gain in survey’s economic rankings The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

EV cities gain in survey’s economic rankings

January 12th, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
EV cities gain in survey’s economic rankings
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BY GARY NELSON
Tribune Contributor

Sometimes, it’s not good to be No. 1.

Case in point: The annual rankings of America’s “neediest” cities, published by WalletHub.com, a personal finance website.

On the other hand, being close to No. 1 is pretty good when the rankings involve the availability of jobs.

And in both surveys, the East Valley is doing well in comparison with many areas in the United States. But according to the area’s leading social services agency, those numbers don’t speak to the widespread economic desperation that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it comes to the first survey – economic need – cities across the region generally improved their scores compared with WalletHub’s pre-COVID rankings released in early 2020.

As was the case last year, Gilbert had the best ranking.

Out of 182 cities surveyed nationwide, Gilbert ranked No. 175 in terms of need. In 2020, it stood at No. 170.

Other rankings:

Phoenix, No. 63 – an improvement from last year’s No. 49.

Tempe, No. 113, compared with No. 105 last year.

  Mesa, No. 128, compared with No. 121 in 202.

Scottsdale and Chandler swapped places in the rankings. In 2020, Scottsdale was No. 162 and Chandler, No. 166. This year the standings are reversed, meaning that Scottsdale was the only city in the region to actually slip.

In a more detailed set of numbers, Gilbert was found to have the fourth-lowest rates of child and adult poverty in the nation. Chandler and Scottsdale are among the nation’s leaders in terms of fewest homes with inadequate plumbing.

While national surveys such as this one can suggest a positive story, social service agencies and governments still must deal with those left behind.

A New Leaf is a Mesa-based social service agency that in its 50 years of existence has grown into a countywide operation.

Kathy DiNolfi, the agency’s chief program officer, said the pandemic has created a flood of people who need help.

“COVID puts a whole different lens on it,” DiNolfi said. “Before COVID, I would say we were improving in our homelessness services and our availability and the need was, I would say, going down. But since COVID we have a newer population that has lost their jobs, that can’t pay their rent because their hours have been reduced or they have to be home and home-school their children.”

In recent months, she said, A New Leaf has handled 5,000 applications from Mesa residents alone who needed help paying rent. The city provided much of that funding.

“We help a lot of families,” DiNolfi said. “Those families are now coming back and saying I don’t have January rent. … I’ve heard from a lot of families that were on the brink of eviction and still are, despite our help.”

Mike Hughes, CEO of a New Leaf, said the needs will continue even after the pandemic abates. “The pandemic has just heightened and exposed the need, and I think the community is doing as best we can to respond to these challenges, but they are certainly not going to go away when we get the pandemic under control,” Hughes said.

Vicky Elias, associate professor of sociology at Texas A&M University/San Antonio, said while the pandemic has affected people in higher income brackets, experiences differ across the economic spectrum.

“For professionals who can work largely at home,” she said, “the biggest stress may be cabin fever or the wayward relative who will not wear a mask. But for those who are facing unemployment and/or evictions, the goal is simply survival.”

In the rankings of neediest cities, Detroit was No. 1. Pearl City, Hawaii, was found to be the nation’s least needy city.

WalletHub also has issued a report on America’s best cities for job-hunters. In that category, which looked at the same 182 cities nationwide, Scottsdale was rated sixth-best in the country.

Other area rankings include: Chandler, No. 13; Tempe, No. 32; Gilbert, No. 33; Mesa, No. 57; Phoenix, No. 74.

WalletHub found that Chandler and Gilbert were tied at No. 1 for the highest median annual household income in the country – $97,934. That’s almost 3.5 times higher than in Newark, N.J., which has the lowest household income at $28,227.

WalletHub uses a variety of metrics from numerous academic and government sources to come up with its rankings.

Information: wallethub.com/edu/cities-with-the-highest-and-lowest-population-in-need/8795 and wallethub.com/edu/cities-with-the-highest-and-lowest-population-in-need/8795.

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