FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Local Economist, David Sorto says while the poverty rate was declining in Northwest Arkansas for a number of years, this is no longer the case and it’s looking like COVID-19 along with housing costs are to blame.

Sorto says, “you know if things are good then their rent is going up, likely other costs of input are going up as well.”

However, now that times aren’t so good, the rent isn’t going down. Nathan Whisenant with Care Community Center believes this uptick in the poverty line can be directly correlated with the hospitality industry.

“We have seen several folks who are cut back on what they’re able to do at the restaurant because of different COVID measures or have lost their jobs entirely,” says Whisenant.

And while the vaccines have given many hope, it is still tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

“Some of them are optimistic but there are some who are really worried about what it is going to look like in the future,” says Whisenant. “Especially if we have to continue these measures with a lot of in-person dining.”