Child advocates discuss strategies to reduce poverty

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(Host) Vermont legislators have set a goal of reducing poverty by 50 percent.

That’s an objective that’s been endorsed by advocates, including the group "Voices for Vermont’s Children."

Poverty was one of the issues that the group focused on during its annual convention in Montpelier on Tuesday.

Jodie Levin-Epstein is the deputy director of the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, who spoke at the conference.

She says Vermont’s high minimum wage and its child health programs help to control poverty.

But she says the state needs to invest more money into existing programs.

And she says Vermont’s high housing costs need to be addressed.

(Levin-Epstein) "It’s leaving some people homeless, it’s leaving others spending more than their fair share of their income to their shelter costs. And so people are pressed to both pay for a room over their head at the same time that they need to get other essentials such as food and clothing and make their families thrive in this economy."

(Host) Levin-Epstein says Vermont’s goal of cutting poverty in half will be a challenge.

But she says the federal war on poverty achieved a similar goal when Social Security helped many seniors get out of poverty.

Levin-Epstein says a new national economic development policy needs to be adopted to help the poor.

(Levin-Epstein) "We need economic strategy that ensures that we grow jobs that are livable wage jobs and beyond, that provide for those that are in low income, to not get stuck in low income. That’s a huge problem. It’s too often the case-it’s not always the case, but it’s too often the case – that people enter low wage jobs and stay there."

(Host) In the meantime, Levin-Epstein says, new and novel ways of tackling poverty need to be found.

She praises states like Vermont, Connecticut and Minnesota for searching for new strategies.

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