Poverty e≠orts must fo­cus on 2 gen­er­a­tions

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Grant Schulte

lin­coln, neb.» Pro­rams de­signed to fight poverty in Ne­braska need to fo­cus on help­ing chil­dren and adults at the same time in­stead of one or the other, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased this week by law­mak­ers, state agency of­fi­cials and ad­vo­cates.

Ne­braska al­ready of­fers safety-net pro­grams for chil­dren and adults, but the lack of co­or­di­na­tion re­sults “in frag­mented ap­proaches that leave one or the other be­hind,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The re­port was pro­duced from a 15-month study ex­am­in­ing why poverty in the state per­sists from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

Sen. Kathy Camp­bell of Lin­coln, who led the task force, said the re­port il­lus­trates the need for a “two gen­er­a­tion” ap­proach to ad­dress poverty.

“We’ve above the na­tional av­er­age, in terms of the per­cent­age of peo­ple in poverty, which should be a red flag to pol­i­cy­mak­ers that we need to ad­dress this in an in-depth man­ner,” Camp­bell said.

Break­ing the poverty cy­cle re­quires a fo­cus on fam­i­lies as a whole through ed­u­ca­tion, eco­nomic sup­port and strength­en­ing net­works of fam­i­lies and neigh­bors, the re­port said. For in­stance, it said early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion should be paired with ed­u­ca­tion for par­ents to help them learn how to man­age money and find higher-pay­ing jobs.

Many of those af­fected are the so-called work­ing poor, with par­ents stuck in low-wage jobs, said Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, a task force mem­ber. Mello spon­sored leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate the task force, mod­eled af­ter sim­i­lar ef­forts in Utah and Colorado.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­port said Ne­braska needs to do a bet­ter job track­ing trends that cause poverty to con­tinue from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

More than 230,000 peo­ple in Ne­braska — more than 12 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion — had in­comes be­low the fed­eral poverty thresh­old last year, ac­cord­ing to U.S. cen­sus data. The state had higher rates of mi­nor­ity fam­i­lies in poverty than the na­tion as a whole. A lit­tle over one-fourth of Ne­braska’s African Amer­i­can fam­i­lies with chil­dren un­der 18 lived in poverty last year, com­pared to nearly 22 per­cent na­tion­wide, ac­cord­ing to the data.

Elice Hub­bert, the re­port’s au­thor and a clerk for the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said the new “two gen­er­a­tional” ap­proach shows prom­ise in the ef­fort to lift more peo­ple out of poverty.

The task force in­cluded sen­a­tors, the state la­bor and ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sion­ers, the CEO of the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, and pri­vate groups that work with the poor.

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