Federal pandemic supports have turned the tide on child poverty; New York is positioned to ensure the progress continues.
Census poverty data released on September 14, 2021 delivered some promising news: the pandemic stimulus interventions – particularly the expanded child tax credit – reduced the national child poverty rate (SPM) by 3% (4.6 million children). Now, to build on this progress, we are looking to Governor Hochul to sign and enact the Child Poverty Reduction Act, S.2755C/A.1160C as one of her first acts as Governor. The bill, with bi-partisan co-sponsorship, swept through the Legislature last spring with near-unanimous support from upstate and downstate, rural, urban, and suburban legislators and constituents. Signing this legislation would serve as a declaration from New York’s leaders of the State’s intent to cut child poverty in half in ten years, while simultaneously advancing racial equity. The Child Poverty Reduction Act provides New York the tools needed to reduce child poverty. It commits to cutting child poverty in half in ten years, requires an annual public report of the effects of budget proposals on child poverty and regular reporting on progress, and establishes the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council to develop a plan to achieve the goal. As New York mounts its recovery from the pandemic, this legislation will ensure that our children are centered in that recovery.
The pandemic relief federal stimulus has been lifesaving to families who continue to be hit hard by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly families with young children still ineligible for the vaccine. Since the pandemic hit New York, its impacts have caused hundreds of thousands more children and families to fall into poverty or near-poverty (FPL), in addition to the 700,000 children living in poverty, or 18% of all New York children, living in poverty before the pandemic struck. Racial inequities have widened and been laid bare. By March 2021, 31% of New York adults reported it had been somewhat or very difficult to pay for usual household expenses and 24% reported not being current on rent or mortgage, with eviction or foreclosure in the next two months likely.
The Child Poverty Reduction Act positions New York to build on recent important wins for New York children, including the state minimum wage increase, and the recently released plan of the Child Care Availability Task Force to dramatically expand access to affordable, quality child care. These are important springboards for progress, but not enough on their own to ensure we achieve a significant—and lasting—reduction in child poverty in New York.
For our children experiencing poverty, every day that we fail to prioritize ending child poverty puts them more at risk for material hardship and negative long-term outcomes. The experience of poverty and trauma in childhood can have long-lasting impacts on development. The toxic stress of poverty can alter the brain development of young children—causing permanent changes in the structure and functioning of the brain. As a result, many children who experience poverty face significant challenges—in the form of poor health, academic obstacles, and lower earnings—for the rest of their lives. With the stakes so high, there should be no delay in tackling child poverty in every inch of our great state.
Learn more about our work to reduce child poverty in New York: