THE DOWNING ANTI-POVERTY PLAN

There are few areas where Massachusetts’ lack of urgency in tackling big policy challenges has more painful human consequences than when it comes to poverty; the difference literally between being able to keep yourself and your loved ones sheltered, clothed, and fed, and living in constant fear that you cannot meet those basic needs. Our state saw the single highest increase in people needing help accessing food since COVID began — in the entire country. That fact should shock every single one of us into action.

Under a Downing Administration, reducing and eliminating poverty will be at the center, not the sidelines, of our economic agenda. We will:

  • End child poverty and cut overall poverty in half by 2030.
  • Eliminate child hunger and cut overall hunger in half by 2030.
  • Cut the number of unhoused residents in half by 2027.
  • Pursue targeted job programs in the 20 communities with the highest poverty rates.
  • Coordinate all state government agencies to leverage current efforts to reduce poverty.

1. INCOME

Policy: Massachusetts will commit to end child poverty and cut overall poverty in half by 2030.

Problem: MA’s economic health masks massive, growing economic inequality. The child poverty rate in our state is 20% higher than the overall poverty rate. The Black and Latinx poverty rates are 87% and 108% higher than overall. Poverty is a racial equity issue that permeates all other issues. Living in poverty is directly related to educational attainment gaps, health inequity and more.

Action Plan: Massachusetts will set a goal of eliminating child poverty and cutting overall poverty in half. We will do that by the following steps, among others: Double the Earned Income Tax Credit (60% federal match), establish a partial match of the federal Child Tax Credit, fund outreach for VITA (tax assistance to maximize uptake of credits), increase TAFDC payments above deep poverty level and create a statewide jobs program leveraging all administration initiatives (i.e. Climate Corps, etc.)


2. FOOD SECURITY

Policy: Massachusetts will eliminate child hunger and cut overall hunger in half by 2030.

Problem: Massachusetts has experienced the highest increase of child food insecurity anywhere in the country since COVID: 102%. Overall, food insecurity has more than doubled, leaving one in six households statewide food insecure. Hunger disproportionately impacts children and people of color. One in six white households with kids were food insecure at the end of last year, compared with one in three Black and one in four Latinx households.

Action Plan: Massachusetts will set a goal of eliminating child hunger and cutting overall hunger/food insecurity in half by 2030. We will do that by the following steps, among others: Make permanent universal school meals, increase the MEFAP budget to $45M, increase support for summer meal outreach, create the Hunger-APR program to help farmers preserve land dedicated to meeting the needs of food insecure families, create state reimbursement for SNAP outreach to match federal, and require state & public entities to consider steps food vendors are taking in state to reduce hunger as part of procurement. We will invest in a resilient, sustainable, local food system, providing direct grants to farmers and building out the infrastructure to deliver products reliably to markets and the people who need them.


3. HOUSING SECURITY

Policy: Massachusetts will cut the number of unhoused residents in half by 2027 and pursue a housing for all strategy.

Problem: The rate of people experiencing homelessness has doubled in Massachusetts since 1990. Public schools have consistently identified over 24,000 students experiencing homelessness. Massachusetts is the third least affordable state, based on housing costs. Poverty and homelessness are intertwined, as high housing costs and low wages limit the ability of many, especially Black and Brown, residents to find safe, stable housing and escape poverty.

Action Plan: Massachusetts will develop a five-year homelessness reduction budget plan focused on substantially increasing and fortifying the Emergency Assistance, RAFT, Home Base and Rental Voucher programs. Investments will prioritize acute support for the unhoused as well as the development of an ample permanent supportive housing stock. The budget plan will intentionally address communities disproportionately impacted by housing insecurity, including those struggling with substance use, LGBTQ+ youth, veterans, and people with disabilities. Additionally, the Downing Administration will support and advocate for a Tenants Right to Counsel and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase to avoid displacement. Finally, the Downing Administration will implement the proposed Bill of Rights for people experiencing homelessness, guaranteeing the right to privacy of property, the right to confidentiality of records, the right to vote, and other essential civil rights protections.


4. JOBS

Policy: Along with investments in safety net programs, the Downing Administration will pursue targeted job programs in the 20 communities/neighborhoods (at least 2–3 bordering census tracts) with the highest poverty rates (all at least double state average).

Problem: Massachusetts economic health masks massive economic, racial, gender and regional inequity.Poverty in Massachusetts is highly concentrated. Structural barriers exist to connecting those living in poverty to jobs through existing means. In dozens of neighborhoods across MA the poverty rates are consistently 3–400% the state average.

Action Plan: The Downing Administration will organize a community-based jobs program in 20 neighborhoods/communities with the highest poverty rates. State support will include funding skill training and small business technical assistance and direct state support to anchor institutions who shift spending away from external sources and towards community employersPriority will be placed on support for Black, Brown, LGBTQ+, and women-owned businesses—with special consideration for those who prioritize worker ownership and community wealth building. The stakeholders for each community will serve as a working group to inform further efforts to improve, reform and expand current state programs aimed at reducing poverty.


5. GOVERNANCE

Policy: Coordinate all state government agencies to leverage current efforts to reduce poverty.

Problem: Too often state government does not coordinate within agencies, between programs or across issue areas. Programs designed to undo poverty as well as hunger and homelessness reduction are spread out across multiple well-intentioned efforts. Unfortunately, over time, they act in silos, with inequitable outcomes for the people intended to be served. The end result is a higher concentration of poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity because of programs that manage—instead of solve—problems. Often, the programs are inaccessible and confusing, acting as yet another structural barrier for Black and Brown communities, single parents or single-income families, children, and the unhoused.

Action Plan: Governor Downing will appoint a new cabinet level official to coordinate anti-poverty efforts across state government, including establishing a Shared Equity Leadership Working Group that is composed of all Cabinets and state agency commissioners. They will present to the Governor, within 100 days, a plan for reorganizing state government to meet poverty reduction goals. They will then present to the Governor, within 180 days, an implementation strategy building off of the initial recommendations.


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