As reported by Lily Bohlke, Public News Service:
A new report shows financial supports made available in the pandemic have led to a direct reduction in poverty in Massachusetts.
From expanded unemployment benefits and Child Tax Credit payments to increases in food assistance, the report said targeted benefits have shown there is a way to cut childhood poverty in half.
Nancy Wagman, research and Kids Count director for the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and the report’s author, contended today’s poverty and racial disparities are partly a result of past policies. She cited decades of low wages, housing discrimination and denying Black veterans GI benefits after World War II, and said major investments are needed to reverse those impacts.
“There’s really an opportunity to learn from some of these investments during the pandemic emergency that we can take and move forward,” Wagman urged. “We can ensure that every family, regardless of their immigration status, has enough to make ends meet.”
In addition to federal supports, Wagman pointed out the state has a role as well, to help promote building generational wealth, through supporting small businesses, homeownership programs or student debt cancellation, for instance.
She added Massachusetts should invest in universal child care, make sure schools are well-funded and address the root causes of unaffordable and unstable housing.
Laura Meisenhelter, executive director of North Shore Community Action Programs in Peabody, said when a crisis happens, the first people to take the hit are those who are low income, and they are the last to recover.
“Many of the government-funded programs increased their income guidelines, so people who ordinarily would not have been able to get help can,” Meisenhelter explained. “It’s a struggle getting the word out to them.”
Joe Diamond, executive director of the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, said as Community Action Agencies work to let people know about what’s available to them, it is important to make sure critical policies are extended.
“Our experience with the pandemic, and the way that we’ve reacted to it as nonprofits and working with partners in government, reinforces the fact that certain policies like strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit can become a sustainable platform for stability and prosperity for low-income workers,” Diamond stated.
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