Senator Hughes proposes legislation to reduce poverty in PA

Senator Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia / Montgomery) today announced plans to introduce a pair of bills designed to assist lawmakers in reducing the commonwealth’s poverty and deep poverty rates. These proposals, SB360 and SB361 will take a data-driven approach to public policy to ensure that lawmakers are fully informed of the potential impacts of legislation on people living in poverty before they vote.

Data from reveals that in 2017 over 1.5 million Pennsylvanians, about 12.5% of the commonwealth’s total population were below the federal poverty line. This ranks Pennsylvania 23rd nationally. In addition, over 700,000 Pennsylvanians, including more than 206,000 children, live in deep poverty; meaning they have household incomes of less than 50% of the federal poverty line, or approximately $12,430 annually. In Philadelphia, the poverty rate is 26% with approximately 200,000 people living in deep poverty.

“SB360 and SB361 will inject research and data into policymaking, so we can begin to drastically reduce and eliminate poverty and deep poverty in the commonwealth,” Sen. Hughes said. “Poverty is real and its impact cuts across the entire commonwealth. It does not discriminate based on race or gender or urban versus rural Pennsylvanians. While the faces and locations of poverty may be different, the impacts are the same. It’s long past time we place the issue of poverty at the forefront of our decision making and do a better job of creating policy that positively impacts our most vulnerable populations.”

SB360, the Intergenerational Poverty Act, calls for a research-based initiative that examines generational poverty through the Department of Human Services. Generational poverty, often referred to as the “cycle of poverty,” is defined as two generations or more being born into poverty. The data collected would be analyzed by a commission that would then recommend policies to address generational poverty in areas such as public assistance, education, criminal justice, etc. The bill is modeled after a Utah program established in 2012, under which the state has seen a decrease in childhood poverty rates.

SB361, would require the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to complete a poverty impact analysis on the governor’s proposed budget and each finally enacted budget to assess with it will reduce or increase poverty in the commonwealth. In addition, any member of the General Assembly would be authorized to seek from the IFO a “Poverty Impact Analysis” on any bill, amendment or joint resolution before the general assembly. Similar to an actuarial note required for pension-related legislation, this bill would prohibit both chambers of the General Assembly from taking a final vote on a bill before a requested Poverty Impact Analysis is completed.

“The issues of poverty, deep poverty and generational poverty will not be solved overnight,” Sen. Hughes said. “But they can no longer be ignored. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said ‘there is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will. While there is much more we can and should do, I believe these two bills will lay the foundation to help us develop a long-term strategy to reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty in Pennsylvania. The time is now.”