Commentary: Will N.C. bill on poverty overtake effort in W-S?

Commentary: Will N.C. bill on poverty overtake effort in W-S?
April 13
10:00 2017

As Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines’ Poverty Thought Force released its 56-page report, a measure on poverty apparently was taking shape in the N.C. House. A bill to create a statewide poverty task force was sent to the House Appropriations Committee for review recently.

Forsyth County Reps. Evelyn Terry and Edward Hanes Jr. are among the co-sponsors of “Root Out Poverty/Task Force Funds” or House Bill 410.

The bill acknowledges “… poverty in this state is widespread, especially among minorities and in rural areas and other parts of the state that have lost significant numbers of jobs.” The bill continues that, “a statewide coordinated effort is required to maximize the State’s resources to reduce and potentially eradicate poverty among citizens able and willing to work.”

So what does this mean? With the General Assembly nowadays working as a tyrant regarding cities in the state, will a statewide poverty measure trump Winston-Salem’s poverty program whenever it goes into effect?

We have seen how cities have tried to attack issues themselves only to be overruled by the state. Is this another case?

Leaders of organizations that already fight poverty said in general the suggestions of the Poverty Thought Force were beneficial. Will the state law require that those leaders change anything they are doing now to help people ease out of poverty?

The bill states, “The task force shall identify long- and short-range goals for eliminating poverty in North Carolina and Develop a coordinated, integrated, ongoing approach among State agencies, departments, and institutions to reduce poverty in the State by establishing and implementing poverty reduction targets.”

Sounds familiar on a local level?

Of course, with the GOP-majority in the General Assembly, the measure might not make it out of committee. But then again, there might be a glimmer of hope. Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican, is introducing a bill that would expand Medicaid. There appears to be some compassion in General Assembly Republicans, at least in Forsyth County.

Meanwhile, people in poverty try to find what works. Forsyth County has several organizations that cater to those in poverty to attempt to make their seemingly permanent situations temporary. There are stories from clients of Experiment in Self-Reliance, Circles and other organizations that tell of how people are now self-sufficient. There were no poverty committees that helped them; only caring people who worked hard to help them move out of poverty.

So, yes, let’s talk about reducing and ending poverty. But at some point the talk has to end and the work has to be intensified or the number of people left behind will be overwhelming.

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