ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester currently stands as a city with the third highest child poverty rate in the nation – and COVID-19 has worsened that. Beyond Rochester, nearly 3 million New Yorkers, including 895,000 children, are living in poverty. One in five kids struggle to meet basic needs. The pandemic has caused another 325,000 NYS children into poverty between March and July.
State officials and child advocacy groups gathered Thursday afternoon to propose a bill they say can fix this. They’re calling it the most significant state commitment on child poverty. Advocates say the plan is to put strategies in place that will reduce child poverty in the state by 50% in ten years. It’s called the Child Poverty Reduction Act.
“Take a ten minute drive, and the life expectancy is 8 years less,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson, sponsoring the bill.
The group says when you drive down those zip codes, issues like mental health problems, physical health problems and poor attendance in school – all stem from poverty.
Candace Cabral is a member of RMAPI (Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative), and a mother of four. She says she is part of a generational curse in her family.
“I’m involved in so many communities but I still struggle to put food on my kids table,” she said.
Her struggles are why advocates are not just proposing a new bill, but also fighting for racial equity efforts.
“There are glaring racial disparities in all economic data, employment, education, health care,” said Jerome Underwood, President and CEO of Action for a Better Community. “In order to counteract childhood poverty we must first close the racial disparities that complicate this,” he said.
In the bill proposed, Underwood mentioned a few things the group is asking for, including: an increased minimum wage for home health aids to $15 dollars an hour – where women of color make up a significant percentage of this work force, and criminal justice reform to “address disproportionate mass incarcerations of people of color.
Advocates say the next step in this process is to encourage the Gov. Cuomo to put the legislation in the budget so he can pass it in the next year’s cycle. Bronson says this is the first step of many – the plan is to outline benchmarks and goals throughout the next ten years.