Help Lift Up Families of Color that Live in Poverty

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Wisconsin’s children, families, and communities will be better when every person in the state has the opportunity to thrive. But in this time of economic expansion and success, too many children and families are being left behind, and poverty and racial and ethnic disparities remain alarmingly high. In order for Wisconsin’s economy to work for all of us,  Wisconsin’s lawmakers, its business owners, and its community leaders must stand up for racial, ethnic, and economic equity. This election season, voters must demand that candidates talk about and promote policies that will improve the well-being of children, families, and communities of color and address institutional racism.

Given that nearly 200,000 Wisconsin children live in poverty, and that we have severe racial and ethnic disparities in child poverty, it is essential that candidates prioritize decreasing child poverty. And if we are going to tackle childhood poverty, it must be done in concert with addressing the needs of their families. It is important to understand that the causes and consequences of poverty are interconnected and reinforcing, so our solutions must be too. Specifically, we urge candidates to: 

  • Significantly increase the employment and income of low-income families of color. Business plays an important a role in this because they provide the jobs that either keep their employees living in poverty or provide them with family supporting wages that lift them out of poverty. The problem is that even in today’s economic expansion and low unemployment environment, employers are not sharing the benefits of their success with their employees. Wages have stagnated at the bottom while profits are skyrocketing at the top. Added to this skewed picture is the fact that over recent years, taxes have been cut for those who are well-connected and rig the system for their own benefit, while the rest of us are being left behind and paying the bills.

  • Expand and improve support for low-income working families of color to better balance the twin challenges of parenting and success on the job. This will require improved public-private partnerships because both play important roles in addressing these needs. For instance, businesses need to create family-friendly workplaces and institute benefit, vacation, and leave policies that support parents taking care of their kids, so they don't have to decide between keeping their job or taking care of a sick child. Lawmakers must make policies and investments that enhance transportation services to better meet the needs of low-income commuters, increase the availability of parent education, family counseling and family preservation services, and increase the availability of affordable and safe housing for low-income families of color.

  • Improve support for low-income children and youth of color so they meet developmental milestones, enter kindergarten ready to learn, and succeed throughout their educational careers. This means we should assure that all parents have the tools and services they need to help their children learn and grow; that we expand access to affordable and high quality child care and early learning programs; that our K-12 system is adequately funded to meet the needs of all children, families, and communities with a particular focus on schools serving poor communities; and that post-high school educational opportunities are available and affordable for students of color.

The solutions we adopt must also be driven by input from people living in poverty and feeling the effects of institutional racism, as they are the experts on what they need.

When children are prepared for a productive and engaged future, they contribute to our future civic and economic prosperity as thoughtful leaders and community members and valuable employees. Poverty makes it harder for children to activate their skills and talents to their benefit and the benefit of us all. Reducing child poverty, and racial disparities in child poverty, is essential and must be a priority for voters and candidates running for public office. Everyone must play their part in making Wisconsin the best place for every child, every family, and every community.