Justin Murphy, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
State Assemblyman Harry Bronson Thursday joined a coalition of children’s advocates to announce legislation that would pledge a 50% reduction in childhood poverty in New York by 2030.
The strategy to reach that goal would be laid out by a child poverty reduction advisory council. It would hold public hearings and consider ideas such as providing tax benefits to the poor, and expanding access to help with employment, housing and child care.
“Whether rural or urban poverty, we know the detrimental effects of living in poverty can last years, if not a lifetime; this is especially true for children who are raised in poverty,” Bronson said in a statement. “But fortunately, we also know that we can take steps today to help lift families up out of poverty and into a brighter future.”
Bronson, a five-term Democrat, is on the ballot in Tuesday’s election against Republican challenger Peter Vazquez.
The legislation also would attempt to deflect the withholding of education and other funding by the state.
The 2020-21 budget permits the state to withhold funding in some areas because of lost revenue due to COVID-19. The state has mostly abstained from using that mechanism so far, but Bronson and other progressive Democrats have called instead for a tax hike on billionaires to increase revenue.
If the state were to withhold education funding in particular, the effect would be felt most in poor cities like Rochester. Bronson’s bill would require the state budget director to evaluate the impact of any such withholding on child poverty and publish the results.
The bill is co-sponsored in the state Senate by Jessica Ramos, of Queens. It is being pushed by the newly formed Statewide Child Poverty Advocacy Coalition, which includes The Children’s Agenda in Rochester.
Some of the ideas in Bronson’s bill have been touted before by The Children’s Agenda: for example, avoiding regressive cuts to state education funding and expanding access to affordable child care.
“The public policy decisions New York state makes or fails to make in these same areas from now until 2030 will determine the trajectory of the health, education and success for hundreds of thousands of this generation’s children,” The Children’s Agenda CEO Larry Marx said in a statement.
There are about 3 million people living in poverty in New York, of whom nearly one third are children. In the city of Rochester, 52% of children live below the poverty line, which is $26,200 for a family of four.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue with rising unemployment. The virus has hit poor, non-white communities the hardest. An additional 10,000 children in Monroe County, and 325,000 across New York, fell into poverty between March and July, according to research from the United Hospital Fund.
“The effects of child poverty on health are pervasive and begin at birth and continue into adulthood and retirement age,” Patrick Brophy, chair in the Department of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital, said in a statement. “Lack of adequate care means chronic health conditions worsen and children aren’t able to thrive at school, furthering the gap between rich and poor.”