The 2021 poverty data recently released by the Census Bureau To display how much impact targeted cash payments to low-income families can have – and how far our country still needs to go.
I know a bit about what works to fight poverty because I’ve been there. I thought my life was over at 16. I found out I was pregnant and didn’t know where to turn. I felt scared and alone.
Fortunately, I found an organization — Economic Mobility Pathways, or EMPath, in Boston – which offered a way forward. It would have been easy to give up on school and my dreams… but with the resources and sense of community I found in this program, I was able to graduate from high school on time. This support has laid the foundation for my future success, as I achieve my goals and pursue a career giving back to my community: as a community organizer, student advocate for Boston Public School, city councilor for Boston, as acting mayor, and as president and CEO of EMPath.
My story illustrates a fundamental truth about humanity: we cannot do this alone. Nor should we. We all deserve communities of support, resources to turn to when we struggle, and a government that ensures our basic needs are met. We not only deserve to survive, but to flourish.
Our society treats people with experiences like mine – people living in poverty – as “less than”. Our systems are not designed to promote economic independence and true security – especially for black and brown families, who are forced to make up for centuries of oppression while facing institutionalized racism at every turn.
Fortunately, fighting poverty is possible — and there are more than enough resources in this country and here in Massachusetts to ensure that families are able to not only meet their basic needs, but achieve their bigger goals. New census data is proof that we already have solutions at our disposal: from 2020 to 2021, the child poverty rate in the United States has almost halved, reaching 5.2% – lowest rate ever.
This is largely due to the weather Expanded child tax credit, which rose from $2,000 to $3,000 or $3,600 per child, depending on age, under the US bailout. Each month, from July to December 2021, the government sent monthly payments to more than 36 million households nationwide, without any conditions. This was different from previous years, where families had to wait to receive the credit in a single payment during tax time. The credit was also made fully refundable, meaning families did not need to have income to receive the payments—– a change from previous eligibility requirements.
With the highest inflation rate in four decades has driven up the cost of living dramatically over the past year, and wages do not followmeeting basic needs like housing, food, diapers, healthcare and transportation is impossible for many. In Massachusetts, one of the most expensive states in the countryfamily budgets are further strained by extremely high housing and childcare costs. According to an analysis published by Boston Indicators in September, Massachusetts’ poverty rate remains higher than that of 21 other states, largely due to its high cost. And the racial wealth gap continues to soar — in Greater Boston, the median net worth for white households is $247,500, while for black households it’s just $8, according to a Federal Reserve Study 2015.
Paying for diapers, food, housing, transportation, childcare, and other necessities of life forces many in our state to make incredibly difficult choices. families in Economic mobility path‘Programs here in Massachusetts face these unthinkable dilemmas every day. Unfortunately, these are the same obstacles I had to overcome 40 years ago.
Direct cash assistance is a proven way to support families with dignity. We have seen how cash payments — not just the Child tax creditbut stimulus checks and guaranteed income programs — are very effective in stimulating economic mobility and improving the situation of families welfare. Many of these programs have the potential to help reduce the racial wealth gap. Of course, direct cash payments should be coupled with other essential initiatives: from increasing affordable housing and homeownership supports to reducing childcare and education costs. superior.
Increasing cash assistance has long been an advocacy priority for us at EMPath because, year after year, we hear the same thing from families in our programs: they need money. For families living in deep poverty, neither salaries nor government support are enough to survive in today’s world.
But we also know that providing cash is often not enough. Families also want guidance and support on how to leverage an influx of additional resources to achieve long-term goals. We all need a mentor in life: to help you set goals, develop strategies to achieve them, and overcome obstacles.
Coaching support for families in difficulty must be holistic, individualized, trauma-informed and culturally competent. Participants in our intensive local programs double or even triple their incomeworking one-on-one with a mentor for five years to achieve goals related to education, employment, finances, housing, well-being, etc.
It’s time for our government and our institutions to take bold action to provide families with the level of support they need and deserve to achieve their goals and ensure their children can live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. .
Kim Janey is president and CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways and was Boston’s first female and first black acting mayor.