Issue Position: Hillary Clinton's Plan to Reduce Child Poverty
Fighting to give every child the chance to live up to his or her god given potential is the cause of Hillary's life. It is the reason she entered public service as a young staff attorney working for Marian Wright Edelman at the Children Defense Fund. It has been a driving force behind her commitment to serving her country for the past 35 years. But when nearly 13 million children go to sleep every night living in poverty, it offends the core notion of America as a land of opportunity. Despite our country's wealth, the U.S. has the highest rate of child poverty among all industrialized countries.
Today, Hillary is offering a plan to address this blight on our nation's conscience and our economic future. She announced two bold new goals an ambitious agenda to deliver real solutions for children in poverty and their families. Hillary's plan will move America towards:
* Cutting child poverty in half by 2020 - lifting at least 6 million children above the poverty line.
* Ending child hunger by 2012, providing nourishment to the 12.4 million children who currently go hungry.
To achieve these goals, Hillary will:
* Close the early opportunity gap with a comprehensive Zero-to-Five education initiative, including nurse home visits, early Head Start, child care and universal pre-K;
* End child hunger by strengthening the food stamp program, improving our food safety net and providing greater access to healthy, fresh food;
* Provide economic opportunity to low-income families by raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and new job training opportunities; and
* Strengthen our families by working to prevent teen pregnancy, support responsible fatherhood, and make sure child support payments go to help lift children out of poverty.
GIVING EVERY CHILD A CHANCE
Hillary Clinton's Plan to Reduce Child Poverty
Today, 12.9 million children live in poverty and roughly five million children live in extreme poverty - that is, in families with incomes of less than half the poverty level. Child poverty has actually increased under the Bush Administration. Poverty is especially prevalent among African-American and Latino children. One third of all African American children and 28% of all Latino children live in poor families, compared with 10% of white children. Nevertheless, 35% of all poor children are white, making them the largest group of children living in poverty. And while we celebrate America as a place where an individual's circumstances of birth should not determine his or her life chances, the fact is that economic mobility is now in decline in America. Children born in poverty are likely to live in poverty their whole lives. A Pew Charitable Trusts study found that the United States now has less economic mobility than most advanced nations. The policy initiatives outlined below are designed to restore America's commitment to economic mobility and give every child a chance in life.
A $1 Billion Child Opportunity Fund to Promote Innovative Solutions to Reducing Child Poverty. Across the country, communities and states are overcoming odds and finding innovative ways to reduce child poverty and strengthen families' economic circumstances. Yet too often these programs remain isolated in one region or community because there is neither the capital nor the communication necessary to bring them to scale. To address this issue, Hillary will create a $1 billion Child Opportunity Fund, which will identify and invest in the most promising practices and apply rigorous evaluation approaches to ensure tangible results. The fund will be designed as a public-private partnership. The government will leverage federal dollars by soliciting contributions from private sources and requiring that states provide a match for projects supported through the Child Opportunity Fund. And the fund will be run based on social venture capital principles, challenging promising programs to go to scale and produce real results.
Setting a Bold Goal of Ending Child Hunger by 2012: 12.4 million children in America - 17% of all children - live in households considered to be food insecure. Research shows that preschool and school-aged children who experience severe hunger have higher levels of chronic illness, anxiety, depression, and behavior problems than children with no hunger. As President, Hillary will formally charge the Secretary of Agriculture with developing and implementing a plan to end child hunger by 2012. She will recommend several steps to achieve toward that goal, including:
* Fixing the Food Stamp Program. The average benefit in the food stamp program is only $21 a week per person and many people end up receiving only $10 a month. The take-up rate is far too low - about one-third of eligible families aren't enrolled in the program. And because of out-dated asset rules, many low-income families have to spend down all but $2000 of their assets before they can qualify for food stamps. Hillary will reform the food stamp program. She will raise benefit levels, reform the asset test rules, and ensure that the program allows families to access a healthy and complete diet.
* Making the School Breakfast Program Universal for All Children in Lower-Income Communities. Ensuring that children have breakfast in the morning is vital to reducing child hunger and improving student learning. Research confirms that students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores and have improved memory in cognitive tests. The current School Breakfast Program provides much-needed support to some children, but many who are eligible for the program do not participate because they don't want to identify themselves as poor. Hillary will make the School Breakfast Program available on a universal basis for all children in low-income communities, serving an additional four million children. Hillary's plan would make expand access to school breakfasts to 350,000 children in Ohio.
* Doubling the Summer Feeding Program. Hunger doesn't take a summer vacation. When school lets out for the year, millions of children lose one or two of their major sources of food. The Summer Food Service Program helps meet that need but today it serves only 1.9 million children, compared with 9.6 million in the School Breakfast program and 17 million in the school lunch program. There is a tremendous amount of unmet need. Hillary will double funding for the program over time, and invest a portion of the expansion in outreach campaigns to make sure families in eligible communities know that meals are available for their children.
* Getting the Junk Food Out of Schools. For low-income students, junk food in schools often displaces healthier food because they have more limited food budgets and are less likely to obtain healthier food elsewhere. Unfortunately, junk food contains virtually no nutritional value, contributes to higher rates of obesity, and reduces students' ability to concentrate, learn and be successful in school. Hillary will require schools that participate in the school lunch or breakfast programs to make available only foods that meet or surpass USDA nutrition standards. In doing so, she will ensure that children living in poverty receive at least one nutritional meal per day. Hillary will also provide financial assistance to help schools make the transition to healthier food.
Make a Comprehensive Commitment to Zero-to-Five Education and Family Support: Hillary knows that the only way we are going to give every child a chance in life is to start them out right. As president, she'll launch a major Zero-to-Five initiative that includes:
* Nurse-Home Visitation for Every New At-Risk Mother. Building on her long history of working to expand home visiting programs in Arkansas and First Lady, Hillary will expand The Nurse Family Partnership program, one of the most proven interventions for improving child outcomes for at-risk children. This program sends qualified nurses to meet with first time, at risk, pregnant women to help them maintain their prenatal health and develop their parenting skills. Over fifteen years this program has achieved stunning results: 48 percent less incidence of child abuse and neglect; an 83 percent increase in workforce participation by low-income unmarried mothers; 69 percent fewer convictions at age 15; 56 percent fewer doctor and hospital visits due to childhood injuries through child age; and a 25 percent reduction in cigarette smoking by mothers during pregnancy. As president, Hillary will ensure that every new at-risk mother is offered access to this valuable intervention.
* Tripling Early Head Start and Growing Head Start Enrollment by 160,000 Children. Early Head Start and Head Start provides comprehensive services for young children (ages 0-3) and their families living in poverty. These programs provide home visits, health, nutrition, pre-literacy and a strong focus on children's social and emotional development. As President, Hillary will triple enrollment in Early Head Start, which she helped create when she was First Lady, and grow Head Start's enrollment by 160,000 children.
* Providing Universal Pre-K. Hillary will provide $10 billion to create a federal-state partnership aimed at making high-quality pre-kindergarten available to every four year old, starting with those living in poverty. Hillary's plan will enable states that have achieved that benchmark to spend the money on other early childhood development initiatives.
* Expanding Access to Affordable, Quality Child Care. The Bush Administration has essentially frozen the level of child care funding for the last eight years. As a result, the real purchasing power of child care subsidies has fallen significantly. According to the Bush Administration's own estimates, 300,000 children will lose child care assistance by 2010, and 150,000 have already lost child care assistance since 2000. Hillary will increase child care funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and return the program to it's original intent: to serve working families. She will also work with Congress to reform the Dependent Care Tax Credit to address its shortcomings. And she will improve the quality of child care by investing in:
* Helping states improve and enforce licensing and safety standards;
* Supporting innovative public-private partnerships that increase the supply of affordable, high quality child care for working families;
* Promoting and supporting quality rating systems that help families evaluate programs; and
* Supporting workforce initiatives that help child care providers get the right training.
* Enabling Working Parents to Take Leave to Stay Home with Their Children. Hillary has long supported giving every parent a real choice about whether to stay home and care for their children full time or work outside the home. That is why she is proposing to allow qualifying, low-income parents who want to stay at home rather than place their children in child care to receive child care subsidies through the Child Care Development Block Grant. This program would award grants to states to support stay-at-home parents. Currently, only parents who place their children in child care are eligible to receive assistance to the Child Care Development Block Grant.
Strengthening Economic Circumstances. In order to address child poverty, we have to strengthen the economic circumstances and provide greater opportunities for children's parents and caregivers. Hillary will enact a series of economic policies that will reward work, make work pay, and help every worker earn enough to support themselves and their families by:
o Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for Families. The EITC is widely seen as the most effective anti-poverty program in the U.S. today. Yet because the EITC offers the same size credit for all families with two or more children, it does not do enough to reduce poverty among larger families. More than half of children in poverty today are in families with three or more children. Indeed, the poverty rate for families with more than three children is 26% - more than double the poverty rate for families with one or two children. Hillary will create a third tier in the EITC for families with three or more children to help lift the children living in larger families out of poverty. This will provide at least 3 million families with $1,000 in additional income.
o Increasing the Minimum Wage. Hillary was a strong champion of recently passed legislation that provided the first increase the minimum wage in a decade, raising the take-home pay of 13 million Americans and providing 6 million children with better food, better healthcare and better opportunities for the future. But she believes we have to do more for hardworking Americans at or near the minimum wage so that we don't face the same problem of its eroding real value a decade from now. As President, Hillary will oppose any future Congressional pay raises until Congress passes legislation to incrementally increasing the minimum wage as well.
o Enacting the Employee Free Choice Act. Hillary will fight for and sign into law the Employee Free Choice Act, which will make it easier to join a union and increase the number of unionized workers in America. Unions help secure better wages, benefits, and job protections for their workers. Union membership has been declining in the U.S. and Hillary will implement policies that will grow their numbers and thereby, the middle class.
Strengthening families. Individual responsibility also plays a role in overcoming economic circumstances. As President, Hillary will adopt policies that create incentives for people to make smart decisions that lead them to be better prepared to take care of their families by:
o Enforcing Child Support Payments. Child support payments lift more than one million children out of poverty each year, and enable 300,000 families to leave public assistance. To support responsible fatherhood and economic opportunity, Hillary will reverse the Bush Administration's deep cuts to the child support enforcement budget, which will reduce child support payments by $11 billion over the next decade. Hillary will also provide incentives for states and counties to pass on every dollar of child support to the custodial parent so that it benefits children. Research demonstrates that fathers pay more of their child support and develop deeper bonds with their children if they know that those payments are going directly to their children. Hillary will also encourage states to take more realistic, cooperative approaches to managing arrears, so that fathers leaving prison are not immediately saddled with unrealistic payment obligations. Increasing child support enforcement is a wise investment: every dollar spent on child support returns $4.58 in child support payments.
o Preventing Teen Pregnancy. When poor teenagers become pregnant, their children are much more likely to grow up to be poor as well. According to an analysis by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen pregnancy costs taxpayers $9.1 billion annually in child welfare, public health, prison, and forgone tax revenue. As President, Hillary will create Teen Pregnancy Reduction Grants to States. This program will provide incentive grants to states that reduce their teen pregnancy rate below a baseline of the state's rate in the year the program is enacted.
o Overhauling the foster care system. The 518,000 children living in foster care are among the most vulnerable in our society. They are far less likely to graduate from high school and go to college and much more likely to drop out of school and become a teen parent; their children are also much more likely to grow up in poverty. Yet, our foster care financing system is out of date and does not provide for services that would either prevent the child's removal from the home, swiftly reunite them with their family, or move them into another permanent home. The system is driven by procedural rules rather than outcomes and emphasizes foster care more than prevention or post-adoption services. As President, Hillary will overhaul the federal financing mechanisms to facilitate faster movement of children from foster care into safe, permanent homes and to reduce the need to place children in foster care; establish subsidized guardianship programs to allow children to move into relatives homes; ensure that children who are adopted out of foster care continue to receive the health and social services they need to succeed; and launch a major adoptive parent recruitment and retention effort.
These new initiates build on the programs that Hillary has announced throughout this campaign to fight poverty and provide economic opportunity for all Americans. Together, this comprehensive commitment will help Hillary reach the bold goals of halving child poverty and ending child poverty that she outlined today:
o Provide Quality Affordable Healthcare to Ever American - No One Left Out. Hillary believes that achieving truly universal healthcare is one of the most important steps we can take to reduce poverty in America. Today, 11.5 million uninsured Americans are living in poverty todayincluding 2.5 million children - and millions more uninsured Americans are just one illness away from falling into poverty as well. Her plan would lower costs, improve quality and cover every single American.
o Ensure that Lower-Income Americans Can Access All The Healthcare Services The Need: Hillary will allow single adults without children - a group that is currently unable to access Medicaid - to receive health care from the program. She will also extend access to family planning services, often the only form of health care women receive, to all women who are eligible for pregnancy-related care. And she will strengthen public hospitals and community health centers that provide critical services to low-income and vulnerable populations.
o Help Every American Save and Build Wealth for Their Future: Hillary understands that building wealth is often the key to helping working Americans move out of poverty and into the middle class. Her plan would offer lower-income workers up to $1000 in matching incentives to help them save and invest for their future.
o Provide Job Training for 1.5 Million At-Risk Youth in High-Growth Sectors of Our Economy. Hillary understands that young people who are out of work and out of school need more than a minimum-wage job--they need the skills and self-confidence to land high-paying jobs in their own communities. As President, Hillary will provide new job training opportunities to 1.5 million new youth over the next decade, principally focused in urban communities.
o Create at Least 5 Million New Green Collar Jobs to Provide Ladders Of Opportunity for Low-Wage Workers. Hillary's energy plan will make aggressive investments in clean energy and energy efficiency to help create at least 5 million new, high-paying jobs that can't be outsourced. Many of these jobs - in weatherization, construction, electrical installation and other fields - will offer exciting new prospects for lower-skilled workers to move out of poverty.
Strengthening Communities and Families:
o Make a National Commitment to Rebuild New Orleans: In one of her first major policy announcements of the campaign, Senator Clinton outlined a detailed, 10-point Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda. Among many other proposals, she called for the creation of a Gulf Coast Corps - thousands of skilled workers from the region and across the country tasked with rebuilding public infrastructure and restoring New Orleans and the region. And she focused on the pressing needs of the people who have been abandoned by their government -- the need for affordable housing, the need for access to health care - including mental health care -- and quality education for their kids, and the need for safe streets and restored public works.
o Reduce Homelessness among Veterans. In 2006, nearly 200,000 veterans were homeless on any given night. Hillary will establish a pilot program on homelessness prevention for veterans that will provide subsidies, eviction prevention, and one-time assistance for veterans who fall behind on their rent. She will also expand rental assistance for veterans by calling on Congress to fund an additional 20,000 housing choice vouchers exclusively for homeless veterans.
o Support City and Community-Wide Efforts to Take Responsibility for Disconnected Youth: Hillary believes it will truly "take a village" to address the overlapping educational, economic and social challenges facing disconnected youth. She will call on mayors and other local officials to convene leaders from the education, business, non-profit, religious and workforce development sectors to develop comprehensive, locally-owned strategies to reengage at-risk youth. The federal government will support this process by awarding $250 million per year in competitive grants to lower-income cities and communities.
o Close the Prison Revolving Door by Helping Ex-Offenders Become Productive Members of Their Communities. Hillary understands that we cannot tackle the problem of poverty in America if we do not take on the tough challenge of reintegrating the nearly 650,000 ex-offenders that are released from prison each year She has called for creating new community based Reentry Partnership Grants to provide comprehensive services and opportunities to ex-offenders, including job training and placement, education toward a high school degree, housing assistance, meaningful service opportunities, and drug and mental health counseling.
o Take Aggressive Action to Keep Families in Their Homes: Hillary understands that foreclosures are wreaking financial havoc on millions of families. When families lose their homes, they are far more likely to fall into poverty. She believes that we cannot fix our urgent economic problems without a comprehensive solution to the housing crisis. That's why she has called for a 90-day foreclosure moratorium, a 5-year interest rate freeze on subprime mortgages, and $30 billion in assistance to states to help at-risk families and communities.
o Support Affordable Housing Trust Funds: Hillary introduced legislation to establish a $1 billion fund to support housing trust funds established by state, county, and municipal governments. Housing trust funds expand the supply of subsidized rental housing, safety net housing, and other affordable housing initiatives. Hillary believes this legislation is more critical than ever as housing is now a severe cost burden for nearly 16 million low- and middle-income households.
o Cut in Half the High School Drop-Out Rate for African American and Latino Students: Hillary has laid out an aggressive agenda to cut in half the drop-out rate among African American and Latino students. Currently about one-half of African American and Hispanic students do not graduate from high school within six years of entering. Hillary will provide financial incentives to attract and retain outstanding teachers and principals to high-need areas; invest in proven initiatives like multiple pathways to graduation and Early College High Schools; and ensure that all schools are measuring their graduation rate the same so that we can begin to make measurable progress and ensure that every child lives up to his or her potential.
o Increase Pell Grants and Enact a Student Borrowers Bill of Rights: College is increasingly the ticket to a middle class life, yet its cost has risen by 40% in the last five years alone. Federal aid has not kept pace and predatory private student lenders are filling in the void. Almost 90% of college graduates who received a Pell Grant had student loans, compared with about half of non-Pell recipients. Hillary has proposed a Student Borrowers Bill of Rights to ensure that students can obtain loans with affordable monthly payments and where they will receive full and transparent information about the terms. She's also committed to ensuring that Pell Grants keep pace with the rising cost of college.
Hillary Clinton's Lifetime Record on Fighting Poverty
From early in her career, Hillary has worked to alleviate poverty and address its root causes, and to provide the same life chances for all children.
o Helping Abused and Neglected Children:While in law school, Hillary worked at the Yale New Haven hospital helping to develop a protocol to help identify children who are victims of abuse and neglect, and ensure that they received the help and treatment they deserve.
o Providing Legal Services to the Indigent: As a law student she volunteered at the New Haven Legal Services offices, providing free legal aid to low income people, in need of assistance. [Living History, pg. 49-50]
o Working for the Children's Defense Fund: Hillary's first job out of law school was working with Marian Wright Edelman's Washington Research Project in Washington, DC (later the Children's Defense Fund). She walked door-to-door in New Bedford, MA, identifying children who were out of school as a result of a disability or indigence. Her advocacy helped lead to the enactment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
o Working to Enfranchise Low-Income Individuals: In 1972, Hillary headed up voter registration drive in Austin, Texas for McGovern campaign, focusing on registering black, Hispanic, and young voters.
In Arkansas, Hillary dedicated her life to working to create opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged individuals, especially children.
o Running a Legal Aid Program: Upon moving to Arkansas, Hillary ran the University of Arkansas's legal aid clinic and prison projects providing legal assistance to the poor and incarcerated. [Living History, pg. 70]
o Reforming Arkansas' Education System: Hillary chaired the Educational Standards Commission to reform Arkansas' education system to better prepare young people, particularly those living in low income areas, to thrive. [Associated Press, 1/27/93]
o Improving Rural Health Care in Arkansas: In 1979, Hillary chaired the Rural Health Committee in Arkansas, where she successfully obtained federal funds to expand medical facilities in Arkansas' poorest areas.
o Bringing the Home Instruction for the Parents of Preschool Youngsters to Arkansas - Hillary helped bring this model parent involvement program to Arkansas to help educate new parents living in low-income communities about building literacy skills.
o Created a Scholarship Program to Help Single Parents: Hillary was the founding board president of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship program, which was designed to help single parents access higher education and better jobs so they could better provide for themselves and their children.
o Founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families: Hillary founded this non-profit organization to advocate for public policies that help children and families achieve their full potential and live healthy lives.
o Chair of the Legal Services Corporation Board of Directors: The Legal Services Corporation provides legal services to indigent individuals. Hillary served as the Chair of the LSC's Board of Directors from 1978-80, a time of expansion for LSC. [Living History, pg.83]
o Chair of the Board of the Children's Defense Fund: Hillary joined the Board of the Children's Defense Fund in 1972. She served as Chairperson of the Board of CDF from 1986 to 1992. CDF is a major advocacy force for poor children.
As First Lady, Hillary worked to:
o Create the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) - SCHIP provides health care to six million children from low-income families. [New York Times, 3/14/07]
o Double Child Care Spending, Expand Head Start, and Create Early Head Start - Hillary advocated internally for a much more significant investment in child care subsidies in order to help low-income working families become self-sufficient. Hillary's advocacy helped lead to the enactment of Early Head Start, which provides comprehensive services to babies and toddlers and their families. [PL 103-252, signed 5/18/94; The Washington Post, 10/7/98; USA Today, 10/27/98]
o Increase Funding for After-School Programs: Hillary fought to increase grow the federal after- school program from a pilot program of $1 million to a $1 billion formula grant program. This program provides funding to create safe opportunities for at-risk children afterschool. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/28/98]
A Commitment to Fiscal Discipline: Hillary will finance her Child Poverty Agenda without increasing the deficit by taking common sense steps to close the tax gap - the tens of billions of dollars in owed taxes that go uncollected each year. Specifically, Senator Clinton would increase third-party reporting of capital gains and improve tax compliance by requiring credit and debit card companies to report reimbursement payments made to merchants.