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December 14, 2018

Groups announce initiative to combat childhood poverty

A collaboration of groups, including Maine Equal Justice, the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, have launched an initiative to reduce childhood poverty in the state.

The "Invest in Tomorrow" initiative to increase economic security and opportunity in Maine also issued a report that lays out the scope and depth of Maine's child poverty problem and sets out policy solutions to halve child poverty over the next decade.

The initiative sets a 2019 goal to lift at least 2,000 children out of poverty, and increase work among low income families by 160,000 hours and increase earnings by $5 million. The long-term goal of the initiative is to reduce childhood poverty by half in 10 years.

Guided by data and community input, the initiative has identified priority across the state that must be addressed, both to reduce child poverty and strengthen the workforce.

The group will track progress using a Measurements of Economic Security and Opportunity Scorecard.

According to the report:

  • Nearly one in eight Maine children is growing up poor, with an average household income of less than $12,000 a year.
  • One out of every five is food insecure, living in families that worry whether they will have enough to eat.
  • Children who grow up in poverty are less likely to succeed in school, less likely to graduate high school, and more likely to be out of the workforce as adults.

Organizers of the initiative said that reducing child poverty is an economic imperative. "Today's Maine children will be tomorrow's adult workforce," the news release said. "In the more immediate future, eliminating barriers to employment so families living in poverty can participate in the workforce will lift these families out of poverty and strengthen our workforce simultaneously."

"Our children's success builds success for our future workforce, for Maine's economy, and for communities in every corner of our state," said Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce president. "Child poverty concerns all of us, as parents, business owners and community members. We are committed to taking steps in 2019, and beyond, that will both reduce child poverty and strengthen and build our workforce."

The report was issued by the Invest in Tomorrow Working Group with input from more than 200 individuals and organizations across the state.

The plan is the result of more than a year of research and data analysis, said Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice. It included "input from across the state from business leaders, faith leaders, health care professionals, teachers and school administrators, social service providers, and families living in poverty."

"We worked hard to make sure we know what stands between families struggling to make ends meet and economic opportunity and independence," she said. "Together we have identified solutions that will meet the challenges Mainers face."

The report, strategic policy priorities for 2019 and a dashboard of measurements that will be tracked over time can be found at www.investintomorrow.me.

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