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Symposium: Why Aren't Florida Candidates Talking About Poverty?

October 14, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Nearly 3 million Floridians are living in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2009 numbers. That's 1 in 7 people overall and 1 in 5 children. The Florida Association for Community Action is urging "let's talk about it" during a town hall symposium on poverty tonight at Florida A & M University, Tallahassee.

Wilma McKay, executive director of the organization, says one of the questions being asked is, "Why aren't any statewide candidates talking about poverty?"

"We have a big issue and that issue needs to be visible. It needs to be a part of the policies that are being made by our politicians, but I really don't think they see it as a priority during this election. I'm afraid that if they are elected, they'll feel like that when they get into office."

The Association for Community Action invited nine candidates for statewide office to attend the symposium to discuss their policies on poverty, but so far none has accepted, she says, due to scheduling conflicts. McKay hopes the town hall will lead the legislature to establish a Florida Council on Poverty to take a look at the issue and to map out some solutions to what she calls a "growing problem."

The recession has created long lines at many of the 29 Community Action agencies across the state, McKay says, and it has brought in a different kind of client.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs; a lot of them were middle-income people. More and more people are becoming homeless. So with no income and nowhere to live, of course they're falling into poverty in record numbers now - folks who were never in poverty before. The face of poverty is definitely changing."

McKay says Community Action agencies were created in 1964 to eliminate poverty. Census data shows 30 million Americans were living in poverty then, and now that number is nearly 40 million. McKay says there has never been enough money to go around, and she urges making a more concerted effort to fix the problem.

"The agencies only have a certain amount of money available to help, and in a lot of cases they run out of money before their next funding cycle. With more resources, we could definitely help a lot more people reach levels of self-sufficiency where they would need no more assistance."

"Symposium on Poverty" takes place at Lee Hall Auditorium on the Florida A & M University Campus at 6 p.m. tonight. More information is available at

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL