The U.S. Census Bureau is reporting the poverty rate in Tennessee was 17.8 percent last year, down a tenth of a percent from 2012. Despite the slight improvement, that still leaves more than 1.1 million people in the state below the poverty line, says Linda O’Neal, executive director with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. “Well, no matter how you measure it, Tennessee remains in the bottom 10 percent of people making ends meet,” says O’Neal. “This particularly impacts Tennessee families with children. More than one-in-four Tennessee children lives in a family experiencing economic stress.” O’Neal says ways to help strengthen the financial footings of families include expanding Medicaid so more people can access health care, and improving opportunities for education and employment. “When we help struggling families by improving their employment-and-training opportunities so they have sufficient resources to support their children, we really help not only those families but the entire community,” says O’Neal. “We have to do more in terms of recruiting well-paying jobs.” O’Neal says another strategy that’s been helping low-income families and their kids in other states is a raising of the minimum wage. Nationally, the poverty rate in 2013 was down from the previous year for the first time since 2006, although there was no statistically significant change in the number of people living in poverty.