Last week, Gubernatorial Candidate and East Boston resident Ben Downing released his anti-poverty agenda and, if elected, wants Massachusetts to commit to ending child poverty and cutting overall poverty in half by 2030.
“The child poverty rate in our state is 20 percent higher than the overall poverty rate,” said Downing “The Black and Latinx poverty rates are 87 percent and 108 percent higher than overall. Poverty is a racial equity issue that permeates all other issues. Living in poverty is directly related to educational attainment gaps, health inequity and more.”
If elected, the former State Senator from Western Mass said Massachusetts will set a goal of eliminating child poverty and cutting overall poverty in half.
“We will do that by the following steps, among others, double the Earned Income Tax Credit, establish a partial match of the Federal Child Tax Credit, fund outreach for tax assistance to maximize uptake of credits and create a statewide jobs program leveraging all administration initiatives,” said Downing. “Massachusetts will also eliminate child hunger and cut overall hunger in half by 2030.”
Massachusetts has experienced the highest increase of child food insecurity anywhere in the country since COVID with overall food insecurity more than double–leaving one in six households statewide food insecure.
“Hunger disproportionately impacts children and people of color,” said Downing “One in 6 white households with kids were food insecure at the end of last year compared with one in three Black and one in four Latinx households.”
Downing said his administration would set a goal of eliminating child hunger and cutting overall hunger/food insecurity in half by 2030.
“We will do that by making universal school meals permanent, increasing the Mass Emergency Food Assistance Program budget to $45 million, increasing support for summer meal outreach, creating the Hunger-APR program to help farmers preserve land dedicated to meeting the needs of food insecure families, and creating state reimbursement for SNAP outreach. We will invest in a resilient, sustainable, local food system, providing direct grants to farmers and building out the infrastructure to deliver products reliably to markets and the people who need them.”
Downing said he will also address housing security by developing a five-year homelessness reduction budget plan focused on substantially increasing and fortifying the Emergency Assistance, Home Base and Rental Voucher programs.
“Investments will prioritize acute support for the unhoused as well as the development of an ample permanent supportive housing stock,” he said. “The budget plan will intentionally address communities disproportionately impacted by housing insecurity, including those struggling with substance use, LGBTQ+ youth, veterans, and people with disabilities.”
To address joblessness Downing’s plan will organize a community-based jobs program in 20 neighborhoods/communities with the highest poverty rates.
“State support will include funding skill training and small business technical assistance and direct state support to anchor institutions who shift spending away from external sources and towards community employers,” he said. “Priority will be placed on support for Black, Brown, LGBTQ, and women-owned businesses, with special consideration for those who prioritize worker ownership and community wealth building.”
Downing said his anti-poverty policy can not be accomplished unless there is strong governance backing the plan. He said to accomplish these goals, all state government agencies must coordinate to leverage current efforts to reduce poverty.
“Too often the state government does not coordinate within agencies, between programs or across issues areas,” he said. “Programs designed to undo poverty as well as hunger and homelessness reduction are spread out across multiple well-intentioned efforts. Unfortunately, over time, they act in silos, with inequitable outcomes for the people intended to be served. The end result is a higher concentration of poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity because of programs that manage, instead of solve, problems.”
Downing pointed out that often these programs are inaccessible and confusing, acting as yet another structural barrier for Black and Brown communities, single parents or single income families, children, and the unhoused. “I will appoint a new cabinet level official to coordinate anti-poverty efforts across state government, including establishing a Shared Equity Leadership Working Group that is composed of all Cabinets and state agency commissioners,” said Downing. “They will present to me, if elected, a plan for reorganizing the state government to meet poverty reduction goals within 100 days, They will then present an implementation strategy building off of the initial recommendations within 180 days.”