(Charleston, WV) While West Virginia has successfully reduced the number of its low-income senior citizens over the past 40 years, its number of children living in poverty has grown and shows no signs of stopping. In fact, child poverty has not decreased in years, a sign of its persistence. Kicking off a week of activities to launch “Our Children, Our Future: The Campaign to End Child Poverty,” today the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy are co-releasing the report “Child Poverty in West Virginia: A Growing and Persistent Problem” which takes an in-depth look at who lives in poverty in the state, what effect poverty has on the state’s children and what programs and policies are available to alleviate poverty’s impact on this vulnerable population.
The new report will be released today at 1:00PM at the Worth Our Care Symposium at the Charleston Marriott. Press is invited to attend; Mr. Boettner and Mr. Smith will be available for interviews at 12:30.
“If we want a bright, healthy future for our state, we can’t keep doing what we are doing,” stated Stephen Smith, Executive Director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. “A generation ago, our society decided it was unacceptable for our seniors to suffer in poverty. We made changes to our tax code, to our social programs, and in our own families – and we succeeded. The senior poverty rate plummeted from 39.2% to 10.3% today. Now must hunker down and make the same commitment to our most vulnerable kids. It will take time, and it will take sacrifice, but there is no alternative.”
“Our Children, Our Future” is a collaboration of over 155 West Virginia Faith institutions, chambers of commerce, unions, child and family organizations, service agencies and legislators of both parties. On the weekend of February 24, the Campaign will launch in faith institutions across the state, as ministers discuss the issue of child poverty, hold prayer services, invite legislators to hear their concerns, and conduct volunteer days.
On February 26, more than 300 parents, kids and other community and faith advocates will gather at the state Capitol for “Our Children, Our Future” Day to advocate for change.
“Addiction? Incarceration? Unemployment? Obesity? They all trace back to our most vulnerable families trying to raise kids on a wage that is not live-able,” continued Smith. “In 1970, the median job paid roughly $20/hour. Today, it’s less than half that. If the greatest generation taught us anything, it is this: our country thrives when it’s most vulnerable citizens have the means to rise out of poverty.”
“The large number of children in poverty in the state illustrates the need for government action,” said Ted Boettner, Executive Director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Working families are struggling to get by, and now is the time to step up our efforts to help, not cut back.”
The report recommends policies that state lawmakers can implement to help raise children and their families out of poverty including expanding Medicaid to cover 120,000 low-income families through the Affordable Care Act, creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit modeled after the federal EITC, investing in child care assistance, and raising the state minimum wage.
The full report is available at www.wvpolicy.org.
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