PA lawmaker seeks to reduce poverty
HARRISBURG, PA — A pair of bills introduced in Harrisburg intend to reduce poverty in the Keystone State. One of the proposals from Sen. Vincent Hughes would require the Department of Human Services to research generational poverty in the state. Hughes says, “Generational poverty, often referred to as the ‘cycle of poverty,’ is defined as two generations or more being born into poverty. The data collected would be analyzed by a commission that would then recommend policies to address generational poverty in areas such as public assistance, education, criminal justice, etc. The bill is modeled after a Utah program established in 2012, under which the state has seen a decrease in childhood poverty rates.”
The other bill Hughes proposed would require the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to analyze the governor’s proposed budget every year and determine whether it would increase or decrease poverty in the state. Further, any senator or representative would be authorized to seek a “poverty impact analysis” from the IFO on any legislation before the legislature. The bill would prevent the Senate and House taking a final vote on the legislation in question until the poverty impact analysis is completed.
According to Hughes, in 2017, about 12.5% of the state’s population lived with incomes below the federal poverty level, giving Pennsylvania a ranking of 23 among the states in terms of poverty. In addition, over 700,000 Pennsylvanians, including more than 206,000 children, live in deep poverty, meaning they have household incomes of less than 50% of the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level is currently $12,140 for and individual, and $16,460 for a family of two and increases with additional family members.
“The issues of poverty, deep poverty and generational poverty will not be solved overnight,” Hughes said. “But they can no longer be ignored. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘There is nothing new about poverty.’ What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will. While there is much more we can and should do, I believe these two bills will lay the foundation to help us develop a long-term strategy to reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty in Pennsylvania.”