By Chris Hambuch-Boyle
Child Poverty is finally in the forefront of the news and legislation. For so long the conversation has been around the economy and the workforce with very little mention of children in poverty. It is time that all look in the mirror and take on the responsibility to change the dialogue. Conversations should focus on how to eradicate child poverty levels in our country and in our state. The United Way recently released the 2020 ALICE Report. ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford basic necessities. ALICE is a much better way of measuring poverty when compared to the Federal Poverty guidelines which have not been changed since enacted in 1990. The report can be found here: https://www.unitedwaywi.org/page/ALICE Across Wisconsin, 34% of households struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, child care, health care, food and transportation. This is where our economy and workforce need to be fixed.
Presently, on the legislative table is the American Rescue Plan Act. In it are critical expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The Act’s “temporary” provisions making the full Child Tax Credit available to all children except those with the highest incomes and making an expanded EITC available to far more low-paid workers not raising children in the home will result in historic reductions of child poverty and provide much needed income support for millions of essential workers, many of whom have been on the front lines and at higher risk during the pandemic.
The Child Tax Credit and EITC lift approximately 5.5 million children above the poverty line, more than any other economic support program. This was achieved through multiple expansions of the EITC and Child Tax Credit since their respective enactments in 1975 and 1997. The American Rescue Plan Act, by making one significant set of changes to the Child Tax Credit will impact another 4.1 million children raising them above the poverty line, cutting the number of children in poverty by more than 40 percent. Permanently enacting this historic provision, which would provide immediate relief to children living in poverty…would be a landmark achievement and should be an urgent priority for legislators. You can read more here: https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/american-rescue-plan-act-includes-critical-expansions-of-child-tax-credit-and
Here is the link to the ALICE Report specific to Eau Claire County: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.unitedwaywi.org/resource/collection/572412D0-E79C-45FA-9049-FBF519C516DC/Eau_Claire_County__ALICE2020_.pdf
It reveals that the median household income, unemployment rate and households in poverty are all worse in Eau Claire county than the state average. Eau Claire has a long history of digging in and doing the advocacy needed to change the incidence of child poverty. We have work to do. From the Clear Vision Poverty Summit’s Kid’s First Committee and JONAH’s Poverty Task force the Chippewa Valley Child Poverty Coalition was formed. It is still going strong lead by John Wagner and Kitty Rahl. If anyone is interested in joining contact JONAH.