New Brief Provides Recommendations to Reduce Poverty in States

Oct 27, 2010

This week, the California Poverty Symposium will meet to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty. The task is not easy. California has been hard hit by the economic downturn, is suffering a tremendous budget deficit and has slashed anti-poverty programs as a result. 

In the recently released brief, Battling Poverty in the Golden State, CLASP deputy director and poverty policy expert Jodie Levin-Epstein and Melissa Boteach of the Center for American Progress, outline strategies that provide insights and lessons from other state poverty commissions as the symposium moves to reduce poverty during this tough economic time.

Although these are recommendations for California, they are applicable across the nation.

The report recommends California partner with the federal government and taking advantage of federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps) to ensure more low-income families can meet their nutritional needs. The program has responded to the recession, growing from serving 29 million people in July 2008 to 42 million people in July 2010. States can help struggling families meet their nutrional needs at little cost because the federal government pays for 100 percent of the program. The report also recommends that California increase outreach for the earned income tax credit. Such outreach costs states relatively little, and it puts money in the pockets of low-income workers.

Other low- or no-cost budget strategies that can shore up families include implementing work share, an unemployment insurance program that helps employers avert layoffs by reducing employees' hours instead of shrinking staff size. The report also recommends strategies such as protecting workers from "wage theft," when employers do not pay at least minimum wage or overtime to hourly employees. It also recommends policies that rein in payday lending fees. Low-income people disproportionately use such services and often end up paying actual interest rates that are tantamount to usury.

Partnering with the business community is another strategy for reducing poverty. Businesses have a strong stake in reducing poverty in their communities and states "because a larger middle class means more purchasing power that translates into greater demand for their products and services," the brief notes.

To learn more on how to reduce poverty rates under federal and state financial constraints, see Battling Poverty in the Golden State: Recommendations for the California Statewide Poverty Commission.

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