Leaders Address Ending Deep Child Poverty
By Dianne Anderson
Determined to keep fighting, advocates are holding out hope around the $5 billion in the recent state money allocated to support the goals of a plan to end deep poverty for children.
Now, the push is to keep the momentum going so that it accomplishes what it intends to do.
“Our hope is that some of the comprehensive recommendations that are coming out from the End Child Poverty Plan will have a lasting impact on changing the trajectory for our children,” said Patricia Nickols-Butler, President and CEO of the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino.
She said the End Child Poverty campaign holds major potential for the state and local communities, especially when it’s fully implemented.
Legislation passed in 2017 to oversee the creation of the End Child Poverty Plan was released last year. By 2019, the state budget contained nearly $5 billion in anti-poverty task force plan investments.
Part of the plan is focused on a Targeted Child Tax Credit to help families get more money back in their pockets to support their basic necessities. It also increases access to early childcare and education for children zero to eight years.
Nickols-Butler is also excited about the recommendation for an additional 20 promise neighborhoods with coordinated community-driven support services.
“We know that no one agency can do all of the work,” she said. “The coordinated approach eliminates duplication and brings the strength of many organizations to the table to be able to support families.”
She said they were honored to be a part of the campaign that kicked off last week at the local Community Action Partnership headquarters, led by Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes. They also welcomed activist Dolores Huerta and Conway Collis of the nonprofit GRACE. All have been highly involved in leading the initiative.
Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom reinforced support for addressing child poverty with investments in the 2019 state budget, which included earned income tax credits, healthcare, additional foster care, and juvenile justice funding.
The basis for the plan is that the kids that receive support will be in a better position to escape a lifetime of lower earnings, addictions or interactions with the criminal justice system, and other negative outcomes associated with deep poverty.
Conway Collis, president & CEO of the non-profit GRACE, leads the EndChildPovertyCA.org campaign.
He applauded Ms. Nickols-Butler, and the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino for all that it has achieved in the region, especially under the high burden of demand for services.
“It is really a model of the kind of coordination between programs and services that it’s important to build statewide,” he said. “It’s a very good model.”
GRACE has been chipping away at the vision for the plan for about five years, he said. Finally, they are seeing progress with this year’s state budget, along with continued community-based organization building.
Today, nearly two million children live in poverty in California, and 450,000 of those children are living in very deep or abject poverty. Many are in and out of homelessness. By definition, deep poverty is a family of four earning less than $12,500 a year.
“We have the ability to literally end – not reduce, but end – deep child poverty in the state within four years,” said Collis, who co-chaired the state Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force.
If things go as planned and as hoped, over time, an investment of 1.6 billion a year is estimated to yield savings of $12 billion a year.
Deep child poverty can end within four years, Collis said, and reducing poverty by 50 percent would take about ten years. He said it starts with prenatal care, childcare, early childhood education, housing, and a range of safety net services to stabilize the children.
If California can achieve that doable goal, he said it would add net savings to the state general fund every year of at least $12 billion.
He said it’s a matter of paying now, or paying later.
“It’s incredible that California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, and we have the highest level of child and family poverty of any state in the United States,” he said.
He describes Gov. Gavin Newsom as transformative, and that the nearly $5 billion in new investments represents a huge step forward, along with some of the key bills carried by Assemblymember Reyes.
There were 10,000 subsidized childcare spots added in the budget, although many more are needed, he said. Childcare usually runs one-third of the family income.
“Now we have the ability to end deep child poverty in the state and continue to build on what was in this year’s state budget to really serve the children that need help,” he said.