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Imperial County tops economic-stress list

July 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Much of the country is still trying to dig out from the depressed economy, but Imperial County in the southeast corner of California finds itself in the biggest hole of all.

It wasn't even lunchtime, but already the temperature in Brawley was well over 100 degrees. But it's not the hot weather that has people in Imperial County stressed out. It's the economy.

Brawley resident Philip Smith has been unemployed for a year and a half, and he's not alone. According to the Associated Press, about one out of every three people in Imperial County is either jobless, foreclosed upon or bankrupt.

"When you have a county like this that's pretty dependent on welfare, there's a lot of stress around this place, and a lot of foreclosures, a lot of people losing their homes, it's real bad," said Brawley resident Sal Ortiz.

Imperial County tops the AP's list of the most economically stressed counties in the nation, followed by Yuma County, Arizona, and Lyon County, Nevada. Riverside County is number 15 and San Bernardino County is number 20.

"It's real stressful, this valley, the Imperial County is pretty stressful, everyone's always trying to struggle just to get by and pay rent and whatnot," said Brawley resident Chris Cota.

If there is any good news, it's that Imperial County's stress rate is actually down from its highest level, which was in July last year.

"There's a lot of people, friends, that've lost their homes, but you know, bring other family members in with you, make it work," said Brawley resident Celes Walker.

And despite the fact that Imperial County has been at the top of the AP's stress list for nearly four straight years, most people seem to be staying positive.

"Just be thankful you have your family and a roof over your head, and keep moving forward, you know," said Cota.

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