Child Poverty

Reducing Child Poverty in New York: A Moral Imperative

December 7, 2020 | New York

The unprecedented – and unrelenting – COVID-19 pandemic has caused devastating loss of life alongside destabilizing unemployment, food insecurity and loss of health insurance across our nation and throughout our State.  It is thereby tragic, albeit unsurprising, that the pandemic has pushed vulnerable New York children and families into, or to the brink of, poverty, and has further hurt the livelihoods of families already in dire financial predicaments pre-pandemic.

COVID-19’s impact on child poverty in New York is undeniable.  According to a jarring United Hospital fund report, over one million New York children have been affected by parental job loss since the pandemic’s start, nearly a third of whom are now newly in or near poverty.  Approximately half of the 4,200 New York children who lost a parent or caregiver to the pandemic are also expected to enter poverty.  New York’s Black and Hispanic youth, who have already been disproportionately impacted by COVID-linked parental or caregiver death and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), are also being disparately affected by this economic downturn.  Exacerbating this impact is our State’s recent 20 percent withholding in aid to localities funding for counties, schools and community-based providers, which has further disrupted the provision of services to children during this critical time.

Even before COVID-19 hit New York, child poverty has long been pervasive in our State and has impacted the lives of so many of our young people.  Over 711,000 New York children lived in poverty in 2019, with New York’s 15th Congressional District carrying the nation’s highest child poverty rate.  New York’s children of color are disproportionately poor – approximately 27.7 % of Black children and 24.8 % of Hispanic children in our State lived in poverty in 2019, compared to 12.2 % of white children.  And while New York experienced a slight overall decline in its child poverty rate from 2018 to 2019, the poverty rate for Black children actually increased over this period.

To accelerate our poverty-fighting efforts, CDF-NY and our partners recently formed a statewide child poverty advocacy coalition and have worked to advance the Child Poverty Reduction Act (S9012/ A11063), sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Harry Bronson.  This legislation aims to cut New York’s child poverty in half by 2030 through the creation of a Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council and would require the State Budget Director to evaluate the budget’s effect on child poverty reduction each year.  The Advisory Council will consider such poverty reduction proposals as strengthening and expanding New York’s Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, expanding work training and employment programs and increasing access to subsidized housing vouchers and childcare.  If passed, the legislation would be the most significant child poverty reduction goal codified into law of any state nationwide.

Child poverty is not inevitable.  Nor is it morally defensible.  In our 2019 Ending Child Poverty Now Report, Marian Wright Edelman describes child poverty as both “a moral disgrace and profound economic threat,” arguing that “There is no excuse for allowing needless child suffering in our land of tremendous affluence.”  New York has the means to address its child poverty crisis.  All it needs is the political will to prioritize the well-being of the youngest New Yorkers and the realization that doing so is not only good for our State’s livelihood and budget – but a moral imperative as well.

Sign our Petition to Protect Children in our State Budget.