Fifty years after Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty in the United States, children and families in Alameda County are facing difficult times. The wealth of the Bay Area may be rising, but some 57 neighborhoods in Alameda County have child poverty rates that exceed 30 percent. When a child experiences poverty at a young age, it likely impacts them for the rest of their lives.
Children born in the poorest parts of the county have a life expectancy of up to 15 years less than in other parts of the county. They also face larger challenges in getting an education and a job.
The most disadvantaged children growing up in Alameda County are three times less likely to read at their grade level and, when they grow up, are six times more likely to be unemployed than in more affluent areas of the county.
We've come together as a county to declare a New War on Poverty in our region with a coalition of community advocates, residents and service providers. We're looking for champions locally and on the state level.
Gov. Jerry Brown's new state budget is an opportunity for leadership. A successful budget must include restorations to vital poverty-fighting programs in California. These programs, cut during the downturn of 2008, can help lift our families out of poverty.
In Alameda County, I've identified three key ways to fight poverty in the 2014-2015 California Budget.
First; a $20 million state contribution to CalFresh would bring in $275 million in matching federal funds for hungry families. Second; restore 107,000 subsidized child care and preschool slots that were cut during the Great Recession. And third; increase funding for workforce development to help Californians earn a living wage.
The need for a state rainy day fund should be balanced against these vital restorations and the ongoing poverty crisis for so many families in our county and our state.
Traditional social safety net services play a crucial role in the fight against poverty. A 2013 report from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that social safety net services like CalWORKs and CalFresh kept 2.8 million Californians out of deep poverty.
CalFresh alone reduced the child poverty rate in our state by four points, or 380,000 children, by providing groceries for families.
Locally, innovative programs like the Family Independence Initiative help lead the fight against poverty by connecting families to resources and giving them the room to lead their own change. In a two-year survey of their work, families enrolled in the Family Independence Initiative on average increased their savings by a remarkable 120 percent and increased their earnings by 24 percent.
In Alameda County, we have been working on the Human Impact Budget project to examine the impact of essential services and put a human face on budget numbers.
Each year, we put out a Human Impact Budget report with the county's new fiscal year budget, so the county can gain a deeper understanding of how services and service cuts affect Alameda County families, seniors and children.
It is going to take all kinds of people in this fight -- families, business leaders, government employees, millennials, seniors and service providers -- to begin to turn these poverty numbers around.
It is a battle well worth fighting for the long-term prosperity of our residents.
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan represents District 3, which includes the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, parts of Oakland including Chinatown, Jack London, Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods, and the unincorporated community of San Lorenzo.