New plan to reduce childhood poverty rates in CA

New plan to reduce childhood poverty rates in CA

(Calif.) Child poverty in California would be reduced by 50 percent over 20 years under new policy and spending recommendations supported by Governor-elect Gavin Newsom and many non-profit and community-based organizations.

Key elements of the plan announced last week by the state’s Lifting Children and Family Out of Poverty Task Force include guaranteed childcare and early childhood education for children in poverty from birth to 8 years old, and increasing enrollment in existing services by expanding outreach.

“When it comes to poverty in California, children are the most vulnerable and suffer the worst,” Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, said in a statement. “It is easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, but this Task Force Report shows that right now we have the opportunity to change the direction of the lives of children and ultimately the future of California.”

The taskforce was created by the passage of Burke’s AB 1520 in 2017 to address the high poverty rates in one of the nation’s wealthiest states. The bill passed the Legislature without a single no vote.

California has the highest percentage of children living in poverty of any state in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which accounts for the high cost of living in our state.

That translates to almost 2 million children—representing one out of every five kids living in the state. The numbers are grimmer among different racial and ethnic groups, however, as nearly one-third of Black children and one-third of Latino children in California live in poverty.

The report, issued last week, estimates the cost of the four-year plan to eliminate deep child poverty for 450,000 California children starting at $1.6 billion the first year.

Deep poverty is defined as families living at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, or earning less than about $12,500 for a family of four.

When fully realized, authors of the report concluded that savings generated by lifting these kids from poverty would total $12 billion annually.

Recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • Guaranteeing access to child care for low-income families by adding 30,000 state-funded pre-school slots in 2019-20, and 15,000 each year thereafter;
  • Fully funding transportation support for all highly mobile student populations so they can remain in their school of origin;
  • Ensuring that the education funds allocated to serve children in poverty, foster youth and English learners in the Local Control Funding Formula are used solely to address challenges faced by these subgroups;
  • Funding summer lunch in local libraries and develop an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) pilot to distribute a monthly benefit during the summer to children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals; and
  • Creating career pipeline opportunities for youth, such as paid pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and summer employment opportunities for youth in poverty.

Shimica Gaskins, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund–California and member of the task force, noted that many of the recommendations will help reduce negative health outcomes low-income children face.

“I cannot emphasize enough how detrimental poverty and deep poverty is to a child’s health and wellbeing,” Gaskins said in a statement. “Poor children are more at risk of having developmental delays, behavioral problems, experiencing obesity, as well as increased stress, which can lead to depression and other physical or mental ailments.”

And Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California, said implementing all of the recommendations is critical to helping low-income families effectively put an end to generational poverty.

“To truly lift children out of poverty, we must start during pregnancy, and address both the parent and child’s needs, including high-quality child care, paid family leave, and home visiting support,” Maben, who also was a member of the taskforce, said in a statement. “Guaranteed early care for children 0–8 in deep poverty would be a lifeline for parents to help them create pathways out of poverty.”

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