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WV Shows Momentum on Turning Child Poverty Proposals into Reality

PHOTO: After months of work, individuals and advocacy groups have presented a bundle of ideas to lawmakers on how to deal with child poverty in West Virginia. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.

PHOTO: After months of work, individuals and advocacy groups have presented a bundle of ideas to lawmakers on how to deal with child poverty in West Virginia. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.


September 27, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Legislative leaders say proposals for fighting child poverty presented to lawmakers this week have a real chance of making a difference - in part, because they started at the grassroots. Individuals and advocacy groups have shared their ideas on a broad range of children's poverty issues with the legislature's Joint Committee on Children and Families.

Chair John Unger said he plans to follow up in at least three areas: expanding early education, boosting children's physical activity and increasing affordable housing. The senate majority leader said an unusual process is putting momentum behind the plans.

"I think there's something different from this, from it used to be. Rising from the grassroots, specific proposals - and not only just specific proposals, but ways of funding it and also measuring it," Unger said.

The plans came from months of work and meetings around West Virginia, organized by the Our Children, Our Future Campaign. Thousands of ordinary people voiced their opinions on the proposals. That process seems to have bypassed many of the partisan fights that have stymied past anti-poverty proposals.

Republican minority leader Mike Hall said they are open to working on the issues. He acknowledged that the legislature is limited by a tight budget, but noted there are low-cost ideas both sides can favor, such as building on what the state has already done to reform drug laws and helping more people remain productive citizens.

"There are very few families in West Virginia, or friends of families, that haven't seen somebody whose life went awry, ended up in the system, they do their time, they come out and they're penalized the rest of their life," Hall said.

Unger said some of the bipartisan atmosphere comes from the focus on one particular group of people who need attention - and cannot be held responsible for their situation.

"You can't blame a child for poverty," Unger said. "That child is vulnerable, and they can't pull themselves up. Focusing on the child brings all political persuasions together."

By mid-December, folks will vote online for which five of the 18 proposals they think should move forward.

More information is available at www.wvhealthykids.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV