Spotlight Exclusives

State Legislatures Call for National Action on Poverty

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Around the country, a growing number of state legislatures have been on the forefront of tackling povertysetting up legislative commissions, establishing poverty reduction targets, holding hearings and more. Of the roughly 20 commissions created since 2004, fully 12 were implemented through the legislature (the rest were established by the Governor).

Now, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has approved a policy that calls for a partnership between the federal and state governments to “address the root causes of poverty and commit ourselves to the goal of reducing poverty.” Adopted at NCSL۪s annual legislative summit in July, the “Reducing Poverty” policy urges support for state and local comprehensive strategies.

NCSL seeks a new federal partnership that will foster state and local “comprehensive strategies, including commissions, task forces and children۪s/families۪/poverty cabinets.” To design effective strategies, information about what works must be shared among all levels of government, community-based organizations and businesses. The policy also calls for a new measure or measures of poverty, and a state-level child well-being survey that would provide timely, state-specific information. Further, NCSL asserts that “any new federal initiative on poverty should identify key goals for state efforts, but allow states flexibility in deciding which goals to emphasize and how to harness state and community efforts to address those goals…Accountability should be focused on outcome measures, rather than program structure and rules.”

NCSL is not alone in advocating for federal action and partnership. Both the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued pre-election reports calling upon the next administration to tackle poverty. When NLC released Poverty and Economic Insecurity: Views from City Hall, Executive Director Donald Borut said that ” while cities are ready to step up and confront the challenges of poverty, there is only so much cities can do without supportive federal policies to help them succeed. After years of a hands off federal approach, the next Administration must re-examine the federal government۪s role vis–vis our cities and develop policies and programs to address those needs. This becomes even more important as we confront the long term consequences of the current financial crisis.”

The Conference of Mayors۪ National Action Agenda on Poverty for the Next President of the United States urges “an active partnership between cities and the federal government to reweave the fabric of the national safety net. A successful national anti-poverty initiative requires a multifaceted comprehensive approach.”

The National Governors۪ Association provided financial and technical support to nine governors who hosted Summits on poverty and opportunity. A central focus of the Summits was on implementing comprehensive approach to fighting poverty.

Seems like the time is ripe for the federal government to join hands with all these other levels of government who already are on the dance floor looking for partners to tackle poverty.

Posted by Jodie


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