OAKLAND - Fifty years since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared his "War on Poverty," Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan on Wednesday called for the launch of a "New War on Poverty" to be combated with a focus on jobs, education, food security and other social services for county residents.
At the De Colores Childhood Education Head Start Center in Oakland's Fruitvale District, Chan -- whose district includes parts of Oakland, San Leandro and Alameda -- unveiled a website that she touted as a tool to help end increasing poverty rates in the county.
The website, "The Alameda County Human Impact Budget," aims to put a human face on the impact of budget cuts, and includes personal stories, videos and photographs, annual reports detailing funding cuts to welfare, childcare, healthcare and other services, and county resource lists.
The site aims to serve as an education and advocacy tool, she said.
"We have 50 years of experience to learn from," Chan said.
She added that technology not present during Johnson's time makes more resources accessible and streamlines data tracking, including the specific impacts to families, children, seniors, disabled residents, minorities and other groups.
According to Chan, there are more than 200,000 county residents that live below the federal poverty line, which is defined as an annual income of $19,000 for a family of three.
There are some neighborhoods in Alameda County cities in which the childhood rate of poverty reaches more than 50 percent, Chan said.
The many efforts of Johnson's campaign half a century ago are still in effect today with the creation of Head Start, Medicare, Social Security, the Jobs Corps and other government services.
Chan said she plans to similarly bolster government programming for the poor through policy changes and pressuring California legislators to invest in social services, such as early learning and preschool programs and home care services.
"I won't be able to duplicate what happened 50 years ago," when many services were created, but she said economic inequality throughout the state and unaffordable services are unacceptable.
She called the roughly $15 billion cut to state health and social services between 2008 and 2013 as destructive to California residents as Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the New Orleans region in 2005.
Her campaign hopes to remedy some of the setbacks of these cuts and others at the federal and local level that have increased poverty rates.
Chan said "coalitions" comprised of staff from departments throughout the county would look into "best practices" to combat poverty and look into possible funding sources, whether it be rebalancing budgets or securing private-public partnerships with foundations, corporations and other companies.
She said poverty-focused meetings would be held in the next few months.
She also said a forum on childhood poverty would be held by the county's Interagency Children's Policy Council by the end of February as part of her campaign.
The board of supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that "creates a blueprint for change that relies on researched-based strategies" and approved plans to work with the state's Senate Office of Research to study poverty and its impacts.
Lori Cox, county director of the Social Services Agency, said many residents that are in poverty are working, but factors such as low minimum wage and small welfare reimbursements are not enough to support families.
"We perpetuate generational poverty," Cox said.
She supported Chan's campaign to delve deeper into the impacts and effects of budget cuts.
President Barack Obama also acknowledged the anniversary of Johnson's announcement of the "War on Poverty" that he made in his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964.
In a statement released Wednesday, the president said, "...far too many children are still born into poverty, far too few have a fair shot to escape it..."
He praised the success of Johnson's campaign, however he noted the ongoing support needed to provide more resources and programs for the poor.
"We must redouble our efforts to make sure our economy works for every working American," he said.
The Alameda County Human Impact Budget website is available at http://acgov.org/hib/.
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