MIAMI — CNN Money.com, in a recent article titled, Poverty in the U.S. Spikes, said, “The nation’s poverty rate jumped to 14.3 percent in 2009, its highest level since 1994, and the 43.6 million Americans in need is the highest number in 51 years of record-keeping.”
“Regionally, the South was the poorest area of the country, with a rate of 15.7 percent. It also experienced the biggest jump in poverty, 1.4 percentage points from 14.3 in 2008.”
After the Census report, President Barack Obama commented, “Even before the recession hit, middle class income had been stagnant and the number of people living in poverty in America was unacceptably high, and these numbers make it clear that our work is just beginning.”
Responding to such statistics, the Miami-Dade Community Action Agency (CAA) will host the second annual Florida Association of Community Action’s (FACA) “Symposium on Poverty” in early October.
The event is open to the public and organizers are urging the community to attend and be part of the legislative process for establishing the agenda for a Florida Commission on Poverty.
The 2010 U.S. Census put the Florida poverty rate at 15 percent and Miami-Dade County’s poverty rate at 17.7 percent.
During last year’s symposium, the FACA board of directors committed to initiate efforts to support the creation of the Commission on Poverty. John Edwards, FACA board legislative committee chairman and national board chairman of the Community Action Partnership based in Washington, D.C., has garnered the support of state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee to draft the legislative bill, according to a statement from the CAA.
“The objective of this year’s symposium is to set the agenda for the Florida Commission on Poverty and it is important to hear the concerns of the people in the community,” said Regina M. Grace, assistant director of the CAA and vice chairwoman of the FACA board.
“An invitation has been extended to community leaders and we are hopeful that the community at large will attend,” she said. “Our goal is to work diligently with the support of key partners to address the needs of Floridians, such as workers trying to find jobs, families in need of adequate health care, ensuring that all children receive a quality education and other critically essential programs and services that are provided through Florida CAAs.”
William Holt, the FACA’s board chairman, said for the past three years Florida has led the nation in the number of economically disadvantaged individuals and families.
“More than 500,000 people were newly categorized as economically disadvantaged between 2007 and 2010, which brought that total number to 2.7 million and increased the percentage from 12.1 percent to a staggering 14.9 percent,” Holt said.
“No matter how many poverty symposiums are held there will never be an organized effort or emphasis placed on the poor without the establishment of a state- wide commission designed to recognize and recommend the changes needed to attack poverty in a systematic manner,” he said. “FACA is championing the charge of creating this commission as a ‘moral right’ for the people of Florida.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Second annual Florida Association for Community Action Symposium on Poverty
WHEN: 8 a.m.-1p.m., Thursday, Oct. 6
WHERE: Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus Auditorium, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami
WHOM TO CONTACT: For information, call the Miami-Dade CAA, 786-469-4600, or visit miamidade.gov/caa or call the FACA, 850-224-4774 or visit www.faca.org.