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Putting Childhood Poverty on Candidates' Radar

Advocacy groups are pushing political candidates to focus on child poverty. (Milkos/iStockphoto)
Advocacy groups are pushing political candidates to focus on child poverty. (Milkos/iStockphoto)
July 25, 2016

DENVER – Presidential candidates from both major parties have talked a lot about helping the middle class, but have skipped over one of the largest segments of the poor: babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Sarah Hughes, research director at the Colorado Children's Campaign, says poverty impacts every aspect of a child's life.

"As candidates are shaping their platforms and thinking about what they'd like to work on for the next four years, I think poverty, particularly poverty as it affects children, is a really important topic that shouldn't be overlooked," she says.

Hughes points out 190,000 children in Colorado live in poverty, and in some parts of the state, one in three children is poor.

Hughes stresses candidates seeking public office need to address both immediate needs, such as access to healthy food, housing and health care, as well as longer-term strategies to move families out of poverty.

Bruce Lesley, president of the children’s advocacy group First Focus, says more than one in five children in the U.S. lives in a family that falls below the federal poverty level.

For a family of four, that's an income of about $1,000 a month or less.

Lesley says addressing poverty is especially important in swing states such as Colorado.

"If they would engage in the conversation, I think they would find a very receptive audience among the public, but because kids don't vote, they don't have PACs, they're not donating to campaigns, they're not on top of mind, and so it's a huge problem that we face," he states.

Lesley says while programs such as SNAP and tax credits have a proven track record for reducing child poverty, over the last five years, federal spending dedicated to children has declined by more than seven percent.

Hughes notes that while Colorado's Front Range communities have largely rebounded since the Great Recession, rural families still face economic hardship. She says one of the most important strategies candidates can focus on is access to affordable child care.

"Because we know that when you have children, if you need to work – and you don't have a safe and stable place for your children to go to while you're at work – it's very difficult to hold a stable job that's going to pay enough to allow you to lift your family out of poverty," she states.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO