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State Report Outlines Four Goals to Lower Poverty

January 15, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia has a new "to-do" list when it comes to reducing poverty. A report from Virginia's Poverty Reduction Task Force provides a new snapshot of poverty in the state. It also identifies four primary goals to increase economic stability for the 750,000 Virginians living in poverty.

Jim Schuyler, executive director of the Virginia Community Action Partnership, is a member of the task force.
He says about 10 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, including 250,000 children. He also points out that the typical Virginian in that situation may not fit common stereotypes.

"A white, female head-of-household, age 25 to 34, with less than a high school education - someone who works. That probably doesn't square with everyone's image of poverty."

The report recommends more investment in early childhood development and education, more access to career development, promotion of savings and asset-building programs, and expansions of safety nets for families in crisis.

Schuyler says additional recommendations include making the Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit refundable, meaning the refund can exceed what people pay in - if they qualify. He says studies show those refunds are mostly spent in local communities - an example of how battling poverty can bring benefits to everyone.

"Those results will have significant positive economic impact, and the reduction in people in poverty will result in savings in terms of spending for families that are in crisis today."

Gov. Kaine notes that the state's Smart Beginnings early childhood initiative gets kudos for its work toward the first goal, but adds that the program needs to be expanded.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - VA