Thursday, March 26, 2015

National Conference on Ending Poverty

Here's the full press release:

Montgomery Councilmembers Focus on
Poverty Issues at National Conference
More Than 1,500 Expected in Washington, D.C., for Conference Hosted by A Wider Circle on Saturday, March 28

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 26, 2015—Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal, Council Vice President Nancy Floreen and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice will join national and regional leaders on Saturday, March 28, at the Washington Convention Center to connect with those living in poverty and non-profit service providers to share innovative approaches to ending poverty. The National Conference on Ending Poverty, which is a day-long regional event hosted by Silver Spring-based non-profit A Wider Circle, is expected to draw more than 1,500 participants.

The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. the Washington Convention Center, which is located at 801 Mount Vernon Place NW in downtown Washington.

Montgomery Councilmembers will participate in a panel discussion at the conference entitled “How Our Political Leaders Will Propel the Movement to End Poverty,” which is scheduled in two parts (from 11:20 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. and from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.) The panels will be held in Room 151A.
 The Washington metropolitan region has a high standard of living, in comparison to other areas around the nation. The Montgomery County self-sufficiency standard, which is a measure of the income required to meet basic needs without public or private assistance, is nearly $83,000 annually for a household with two adults and one preschooler. According to Non-profit Montgomery, the number of County residents living below the Federal Poverty Level increased from 4.8 percent in 2006 to 6.7 percent in 2011. The number of children and youth under 18 living in poverty grew from 5.5 to 8.8 percent over the same period.

Montgomery Councilmembers have been working with non-profit organizations and service providers to develop strategies and provide funding to assist the County’s neediest residents.
“As Council President and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, I know how important it is for residents to access essential safety net services,” said Council President Leventhal. “That’s why the work that A Wider Circle does is so pivotal. It is on the front lines in the battle against poverty, and it is up to all of us to make sure it has the tools to win that fight.”

“Montgomery County ranks toward the top of the list of counties with the highest median incomes, and we take pride in being the economic engine of Maryland,” said Council Vice President Floreen. “Yet we have pockets of poverty that are not easily seen. Families of working poor and people whose circumstances have taken dramatic turns for the worse due to the economic conditions of the past few years make up an increasing portion of our community. We owe it to them to do better. That’s why I’m looking forward to working with our terrific non-profits to expand our capacity to help those who are living in poverty now and to prevent others from slipping into poverty in the future.”

Since poverty indicators are often first observed in the classroom, County officials use Montgomery County Public School’s data as a barometer for measuring community need. Currently, more than 34 percent of public school students qualify for free and reduced price school meals. The income eligibility for this program is less than $44,123 annually for a family of four.

“It is important that we look at all the aspects associated with poverty including education, job training, and housing and figure out how we can join forces through public private partnerships and other collaborations to truly make a difference in our communities,” said Councilmember Rice, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee. “This conference is an excellent opportunity to come together to talk about how to end poverty in Montgomery County.”

“Non-profit organizations like A Wider Circle do incredible work helping those in need, which reinforces the fabric of our society,” said Councilmember Navarro, who is a former member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “We do work on the Council every day to help those in need—from increasing access to health care to making affordable housing a priority. However, it is a strong and robust economic development strategy that leaves no area of the County behind that truly allows us to invest in our social and educational infrastructure.”

"Ending poverty must be at the top of every agenda,” said Councilmember Berliner. “All tools in the tool box must be used and more added. Proven strategies focused on early childhood education, universal pre-kindergarten, workforce training, adult ESOL classes, affordable housing and food security are all essential in the fight against poverty. Our great non-profits, like A Wider Circle, are leading the way, and we are so very grateful to be its partner in this fight.”

Many working on poverty and income inequality recognize that policy changes are necessary at all levels of government to promote social change.

"The persistence of poverty in America is the result of conscious policy decisions that can be changed, if we have the political will to do so,” said Councilmember Elrich. “How we approach wages, access to health care, education and housing creates or eliminates poverty."

"It is not right and it is not just that so many working families are raising their children in poverty,” said Councilmember Hucker. “In Maryland and in Montgomery County, we do not need to tolerate persistent poverty alongside great wealth. We can do better. From working to raise the minimum wage, expanding access to high quality pre-kindergarten, investing in our infrastructure to create good paying jobs, training the next generation of workers for the jobs of tomorrow and making the workplace more family friendly through paid sick leave and equal pay for women—these are things we can do today to fight poverty in our communities."

“Urgency is the reason for this conference,” said Mark Bergel, executive director of A Wider Circle. “There are so many great programs and leaders doing wonderful work to address the unacceptable conditions that many of our neighbors endure. None of us can do it alone; we must engage together and with urgency.”

For more information about the conference, visit A Wider Circle’s web site or contact Samantha Gloss at 301-608-3504.

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