Solutions to child poverty are a matter of political will

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Central New York health professionals suggest ‘guaranteed income’ to end child poverty

Local members of ‘Mayors for Guaranteed Income’ include Rochester and Ithaca

It is traumatic to hear repeatedly about poverty in central New York. The good news is that we have the ingredients to ease the pain: money and solutions that work. We need a coalition to work with our local city and county government to implement these policies.

Rochester and Ithaca are member cities.

Payments for children last year reduces monthly child poverty by an incredible 30%. The money was spent on food and basic items with no evidence that it diminished employment. Baltimore is just one city that chooses to give families money with the children after the continued success of these programs. Mayors expand similar programs nationwide as the federal government abruptly cut off the spigot of cash payments despite their success. Local members of Mayors for Guaranteed Income include Rochester and Ithaca.

Local investments in child care and jobs help but do not feed, clothe or help pay the rents that are needed now. One of my most painful experiences is listening to my father describe his childhood in India and calling his father with hunger. No one should have to go through what children were described to experience in our county. Being a street doctor and coming up against the barriers that poverty puts in mental health and addictions care leaves people in a state of perpetual pain. We see an amazing increase in drug overdose deaths. We may not be able to solve these problems with just one program, but cash injections have been shown to reduce poverty, deep poverty and black poverty with a small downside.

A pilot proposal would use $60.9 million from the Syracuse American Rescue Funds and $110 million from the Onondaga County proposals for the aquarium and sports complex for monthly payments to families up to 200-300 percent of the poverty line. The county government, not the city, is responsible for personal services. Eligible families could receive $200/month per child until funds are exhausted. The program is perhaps the most ambitious and best funded in the country. We could do our best to go from worst to first.

We cannot continue business as usual to address child poverty. Syracuse’s continued appearance at the top of the child poverty list is traumatic for poor children and families to hear and bear. Ignoring well-meaning but partial proposals, repeated corporate tax cuts, and blaming those experiencing poverty have not helped meet the basic needs of many county residents. Even discussions of the vast evidence of systemic racism and its relationship to poverty appear to be failing many in power. We cannot overlook the need to address rural poverty as well – the above should be a county-wide effort. Let’s build a county that cares about us all. Join our coalition, reach out to county and city leaders, and make your voice heard: We must use our more than $170 million to end child poverty today.

Sunny Aslam, MD
Robert Dracker, MD, President, Onondaga County Medical Society
Reverend Eric Jackson, Plymouth Congregational Church
Ofrona Reid, MD, CMO, Syracuse Community Health Center
Jeff Sneider, MD


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