The latest statistics from the Census Bureau are in, and Missouri rates in the bottom third of states when it comes to the amount of people living in poverty.

In 2009, 146,000 more Missourians were living in poverty than in 2008 (a total of 926,000). That amounts to a 19% jump. Missouri had the 15th highest poverty rate in the US.

The numbers may be troubling, but Arleasha Mays with the Department of Social Services says they’re not a surprise.

“That’s something we already knew. Our caseload growth for our assistance programs is reflective of the figures that the Census Bureau has put out, so we knew that the number of people who are needing to rely on the safety net from the state has been growing for a couple of years now,” Mays said.

Of course, the Department of Social Services is dealing with a problem every state is. The need for its services is increasing substantially as the funding to do their work either stays the same or decreases.

“We’re streamlining and we’re working to do our jobs better. We have a dedicated staff of folks throughout our Children’s Division, Family Support Division and our Mo HealthNet Division that are determined to meet those needs and are excited about meeting the challenges of addressing issues in leaner times,” Mays said.

According to these latest numbers, 15.5% of Missourians were living in poverty in 2009. The figure was 14.3% nationwide.

What’s more, more than a third of the people in poverty in Missouri are children under the age of 18. Mays says enrollment numbers, again, made that no surprise.

“Numbers-wise we can see that there has been a larger increase with the MO HealthNet Program and that would be the program for families, for children, for the disabled, elderly and blind, for pregnant women. We have seen the numbers in that program grow at a much greater rate than the other programs. But there have been some increases in the number of people that are in need of food stamps and the people that are in need of TANF, but the numbers are not astronomical in those areas,” Mays said.

TANF is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides funds to help parents continue to care for children in their homes.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]