President's Advisory Council Advocates a Renewed Focus on Poverty and Opportunity

Mar 12, 2010

By Josh Bone

On March 11, 2010, President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released its final report, which encourages the administration to take key steps to reduce poverty and increase opportunity. 

The report calls on the administration to work with neighborhood and faith-based organizations to make good on President Obama's commitment to reduce the poverty rate by half over the next ten years.  The Half in Ten Campaign has outlined four fundamental principles that should inform this poverty reduction effort: promoting decent work, ensuring economic security, providing opportunity for all, and helping people build wealth.  The President's recent budget request contains encouraging material consistent with each of these principles, and the Council should be commended for underscoring the ways that neighborhood and faith-based organizations can help achieve this important goal. 

The Council should also be commended for advocating changes to the deeply flawed federal poverty measure.  According to the Council, among the problems with the existing federal poverty measure is that it is unresponsive to anti-poverty efforts other than cash assistance.  For example, it does not take into account tax credits and the degree to which they ameliorate poverty.  At the same time, the measure is flawed since it fails to consider common expenditures such as child care.  The Council encourages the administration to change the poverty measure through an Office of Management and Budget directive.

Recognizing that reducing poverty depends on increasing access to opportunity, the Council declares that community and faith-based organizations can play a key role in helping low-income people receive the education and training they need.  The Council notes that such organizations can both connect individuals with education and training providers, and partner with providers to ensure that students learn marketable skills and have access to further educational opportunities.  Importantly, the Council emphasizes that education and training must be coupled with access to supportive services, such as transportation and child care.

The Council should be applauded for focusing so closely on the issues of poverty and opportunity.  We encourage the administration to consider the Council's important recommendations.   


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