Press Release, July 24, 2008: Major Policy Forum to Look at State and Local Initiatives Aimed at Fighting Poverty in America

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Contact: Amy Saltzman

WASHINGTON, D.C. On Monday, July 28 a major policy forum sponsored by the Half in Ten Campaign, National League of Cities and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, will examine the growing number of anti-poverty initiatives launched in the last two years by state and local governments. By establishing commissions and legislative caucuses, setting poverty reduction targets, and holding summits, state and local governments are taking concrete steps to help the nation۪s lowest income families.

The forum is one of a number of events over the next few months that will highlight the problem of poverty in America today and the growing political and public will to come up with solutions. The July 28 forum, Tackling Poverty: The Role of State and Local Governments, will include advocates, experts, and officials from Minnesota, Connecticut, Illinois and New York City. It will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Center for American Progress, 1333 H Street, NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity would also like to let you know about several other events that may be of interest to reporters writing about efforts to fight poverty and create greater opportunity for all Americans. These include the following:

  • Annual Release of Poverty Data, August 26.  The Census Bureau will release two sets of poverty numbers: data onincome, poverty and health insurance from the Current PopulationSurvey, which provides national and state data, and data on income,earnings and poverty from the American Community Survey, which providesdata for areas with populations of 65,000 or more. More information onthe release will be posted at shortly before August 26.
  • Fighting Poverty with Faith: A Week of Action, Sept. 10-16.  This national effort to draw greater attention to poverty as a moral problem is being coordinated by religious organizations across the country. During this week people of faith across the country will be mobilizing to ask their local, state and national candidates what they will do to address the pressing issues of poverty and opportunity in America during their first 100 days in office. The week will include coordinated interfaith services and advocacy efforts aimed at drawing attention to the need for all sectors of society to come together to fight poverty. For more information, go to
  • The Gulf Coast and the New Administration: An Agenda for the First 100 Days, Sept.15. This major policy forum, which will be held in New Orleans, will set the stage for the next president۪s efforts to address continuing poverty in the Gulf Coast region three years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The event is sponsored by the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, an initiative of the Louisiana Disaster and Recovery Foundation, and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. Panelists will include a bi-partisan group of key elected officials, foundation representatives, policy experts, national and local journalists and community organizers working in the Gulf Coast Region.
  • Congressional Hearing on Poverty, Sept. 18. (tentative).  The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Poverty, chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, is scheduled to hold a hearing on setting a federal goal for reducing poverty. Witnesses are expected to include former Sen. John Edwards, chair of the Half In Ten anti-poverty campaign.

These events come as more Americans are saying they want to see a greater focus in the presidential campaigns and in the media on efforts to fight poverty. A new poll released in early July by Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin for Spotlight on Poverty, asked likely voters for the 2008 presidential campaign whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “The media has spent an adequate amount of time during the presidential campaign covering the issue of how to fight poverty in the U.S.” 56 percent disagreed; 41 percent strongly disagreed.

The recently-renewed effort to update the country۪s out-dated measure for calculating the number of people in poverty is another sign of growing momentum on this issue. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA.) is expected to introduce legislation soon calling for a new poverty measure that would for the first time include costs for transportation, child care and health care, as well as non-cash benefits such as housing assistance, the Earned Income tax Credit, the Child Care Credit and food stamps. A July 17 hearing on the proposal before the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support of the House Ways and Means Committee drew a standing-room only crowd. A similar measure was recently adopted by New York City.

Clearly, poverty has become a dominant issue in the minds of growing numbers of voters, policy makers and religious leaders. If you would like more information on any of the events above, the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity initiative would be happy to set up interviews and provide additional background. Contact Amy Saltzman at 301-656-0348;


Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: Foundations Ask Presidential Candidates What They۪ll Do for America is a new initiative supported by American foundations to develop sustained political will on the pressing issues of poverty and opportunity. Spotlight starts by engaging candidates in substantive discussions about poverty in our country and eliciting ideas and perspectives about what must be done. The Spotlight web site offers the latest research and news from around the country and features compelling commentary from leading public figures and experts. Through ongoing forums, discussions, and outreach, Spotlight will seek to ensure that poverty and opportunity are on the national agenda long after the elections are over.

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