Common Thread: Confronting Poverty with Data & Policy


January 24, 2023

By: Julie Kronick

Earlier this month, ahead of the Governor’s State of the State, we began a complex conversation about economic burdens in New York State and some potential supportive legislation/programs that we would like to see included in the adopted budget. As discussed, poverty is the common thread connecting issues with housing, education and healthcare access, and community well-being—the four pillars of CCC’s vision in advancing equity for all of New York’s children. You can read part 1 of our “Common Thread” conversation here.

The direct correlation between the overall well-being of families and access to affordable housing, healthcare, and other significant needs is made clear in our Child & Family Well-being in New York State (CFWB) report, published last week. The report examines county-level data across six domains of well-being (economic security, housing stability, health care, education, youth, and families and communities) and ranks each county’s overall risk to child and family well-being. The analysis leverages data from the first year of the pandemic onwards, demonstrating the serious impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing this important conversation, the CFWB report offers a timely, data-driven roadmap to improve child and family well-being, which includes some policies that may be familiar to our readers and allies and are supported by several of our State Elected Officials.

What Our Report Says

Using public data to track indicators across all of New York’s counties allows us to confront the systemic barriers to equity, such as long-term disinvestment and discrimination. The report breaks down the data county-by-county but also assesses the overall summarization of the county data. So what was found? Below are some takeaways from the report:

  • Around 746,000 children in New York State lived in households with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is about $26,000 for a family of four. This translates to more than 20% of children in 22 counties out of 62 living below the poverty level, which is higher than the national rate of 16%.
  • In 49 counties our of 62 (more than half), 20% or more of renter households spend at least half of income on rent alone.
  • In counties where barriers to well-being are greatest, two-thirds of the population are people of color (Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Multiracial, Native American), whereas in counties where barriers to well-being are fewest, the population is nearly two-thirds White.

Read more about CCC’s statewide findings here in our report. In her State of the State Address, Governor Kathy Hochul laid out an ambitious vision and prioritized key investments that will address the multitude of challenges facing New York’s children and families, including by expanding mental health services for school-aged children, ramping up affordable housing production, indexing the minimum wage to inflation, and improving access to child care. While CCC applauds this, the data reveals that New York families with children are in dire need of more support. Here are some policy strategies that CCC urges our State Leaders to invest in to combat the inequity and financial stress illustrated through this report.

  • Reforming the Empire State Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Implementing the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP)
  • Funding universal school meals
  • Increasing access to Early Intervention by increasing service provider reimbursement rates
  • Investing in primary prevention, restoring, and lifting the child welfare funding statute to 75/25, and increasing the child welfare housing voucher to $725
  • Increase investments in youth employment and youth development programming

The Policy Strategy section of the index includes a larger series of recommendations to bolster community equity and combat poverty and material hardships. You can read the full section here.

Validating CCC’s Recommendations

Discussions about communities and financial stress are also grounded in the Child Poverty Reduction Act and Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council (CPRAC), legally committing New York to take the steps necessary to reduce child poverty by 50% in the next eleven years.

The Advisory Council, in developing policies and procedures, is directed to consider the disproportionate impact poverty has on different racial and ethnic communities and what policies can alleviate those disparities, much like our CFWB index and policy strategies. Where CCC’s data aligns with this priority is significant and further validates the strategies presented in the report. Along with other advocates, our organization submitted a letter to Gov. Hochul detailing budget recommendations that will support the reduction of child poverty. The recommendations mirrored the policy strategies in CFWB, including funding a Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP), investing in affordable child care, and strengthening New York’s Child Tax Credit (CTC).

In our last previous Common Thread article, we discussed how HVAP and the Empire State Child Credit are both beneficial to reducing child poverty. We know that the enhanced Federal Child Tax Credit enacted under the American Rescue Plan helped reduce child poverty nationwide by over 40%, so strengthening the Empire State Child Credit to include younger children and all eligible families is a long-term support that will help lift children and families out of poverty. And housing stability is a major priority with so many families across the state spending more than half of their income on housing alone. On top of this, in a 2022 poll of New York business leaders, a majority say a lack of child care workers is a serious issue for their business, demonstrating the connection between economic well-being and child care. You can read more on this and the recommendations in the letter here. The alignment between other poverty-fighting organizations and some of the policy suggestions outlined in the CFWB report highlight that there are immediate investments that can be made to significantly address child poverty this year.

In NYS Comptroller DiNapoli’s December report “New Yorkers in Need” which revealed that almost 2.7 million New Yorkers, or 13.9% of the state’s population, lived in poverty in 2021, compared to 12.8% of all Americans and that 18.5% of the state’s population under 18 live in poverty, findings also show that poverty rates declined substantially as educational levels increased. This fact reveals a direct link between educational experiences/opportunities for children and community well-being. Investing in youth opportunities, policies that keep youth connected to their education, and healthcare access are key investments that have a long-term impact on families. You can read some more on this from our previous article about youth justice and policy here. CCC will be continuing conversations about youth investment through other discussions and spaces moving forward, too.

Other validation for confronting child poverty through the strategies recommended in CCC’s report come from our own elected officials on the state level: Assemblymember Michaelle C. Solages supports investment in education, statewide Pre-K, and adult education programs; Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi voiced agreement in expanding the Empire State Child Credit program; and Senator Brian Kavanagh is leading the charge for the Housing Access Voucher Program to create more housing stability across the state. Read more responses to CCC’s Child & Family Well-being in New York State report in the press release here.

There is a significant drumbeat for a number of policies that CCC recommends for confronting child poverty. We will continue advocating on behalf of children, youth, and families across New York to ensure that every child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe, as well as tackling the common thread of material hardship that impacts the well-being of so many New Yorkers. Please take a look at Child & Family Well-being in New York State: Addressing Barriers to More Equitable Opportunities for more data and information on community well-being and continue connecting the dots by reading our Common Thread article from earlier this month.

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