MASSCAP Conducts Listening Sessions Focused on Easing Poverty in Massachusetts
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) released a report written by Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) that determined that programs that help families to make ends meet, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP, fuel assistance, school lunches, Head Start, and Social Security cut the number of people in the Commonwealth living in poverty by almost half and reduce the number of children living in poverty by more than half. That report, “Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity: Finding a Way Forward Together,” is available to read at MASSCAP’s website.
Throughout the spring and early summer, MASSCAP – in conjunction with the community action network and other community partners – held listening sessions in cities throughout Massachusetts to learn more about the factors that contribute to poverty in their regions and solutions to it. After holding events in Boston, Lawrence, and Quincy, MASSCAP will soon resume these forums and plans to hold events in Worcester and Springfield this fall. The Worcester listening session will take place on Friday, October 5th at Mechanics Hall, and those interested in attending can do so here. The Springfield event will be held on October 26th at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
“As community-based organizations created to serve the needs of communities, it’s important for us to hear what works and what doesn’t in all of these regions of the state,” said Joe Diamond, MASSCAP’s executive director, about the report and the listening sessions. “As a network, we know that there are systemic reasons for poverty in Massachusetts and across the nation, but it is still helpful for us in meeting the needs of our clients to know what works in places like Lawrence and Quincy.”
The study released in May noted that while the incomes of the highest income households have grown considerably over the past several decades, the same cannot be said for low-wage workers. According to the study, “national economic policies stopped emphasizing wage growth, Congress allowed the real value of the minimum wage to decline, and labor law enforcement agencies weakened protections for workers.” The positive news is that well-resourced communities in Massachusetts can help to counteract these national trends by lowering the barriers to opportunity. Still, communities with fewer resources and higher concentrations of poverty are challenged to help residents living in poverty.
MASSCAP plans to compile the information they’ve heard from each of these listening sessions into a policy agenda for addressing poverty in Massachusetts. One potential outcome will be to create a policy or legislative report card to encourage the adoption of effective policies to ease the burdens of poverty.
This landmark report was underwritten by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley along with The Boston Foundation, Cambridge Community Foundation, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Eastern Bank, Essex County Community Foundation, Lowell Community Foundation, United Way of Pioneer Valley, and Worcester Community Action Council. You can read the findings here (executive summary here).