A retired Addison County senator, Harold Giard, was very concerned about poverty from generation to generation. He was less focused on short-term budget issues. We would discuss how programs for children could increase the odds that they would become functional taxpaying citizens.
Unfortunately, success is often hampered by limited resources available to parents. Home-based services for families are less available today. Positive long-term change must involve the whole family.
Reach Up was once an effective program to deal with families in poverty. Now social workers rarely engage with families. Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to further reduce assistance and services to the poorest families in Vermont. A few may do well. But some mothers will seek help from abusive men. More children will end up in state custody. Older boys can look forward to jail. All this may save pennies in the short run.
Single-payer health care is a positive goal of Gov. Shumlin. However, on the way he advocates cuts in health insurance now available to low-income citizens.
Fortunately, the Vermont House has not allowed the governor to savagely cut the earned-income tax credit, which allows some low-income workers to approach a livable wage. We could replace this with a substantial increase in the minimum wage. The earned-income tax credit, along with public funds for child care and health insurance, are also subsidies for low-wage businesses. Don’t scapegoat the poor who are stuck in an economy ruined by corporate greed. Revenue to fight poverty is available from wealthy Vermonters, but Gov. Shumlin would rather tax fuel, etc., than ask his rich friends to pay.
Will our Legislature try to interrupt the cycle of poverty in Vermont? A start could be a return to a positive Reach Up program.
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