Current Poverty Caused, In Part, By Our Past Decisions

Seven local organizations have been awarded money from a $1 million state grant to pay for programs to help decrease poverty in the Jamestown area for the 8,000 families described as asset limited, income constrained and employed (ALICE).

The United Way uses the ALICE measurement to show the number of families who earn wages more than the federal poverty level, but not earn enough to afford a bare-bones household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

Local officials have spent months discussing the best way to use the $1 million Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative grant. Their best efforts have resulted in a goal to reduce the number of ALICE families by 2 percent in 10 years. The best efforts we can come up with locally will help about 16 families a year.

That alone should give you a good idea of the depths of poverty in the Jamestown area. The programs — which were described in a Dec. 14 story in The Post-Journal — are good programs created by good people. We are certain they will do good work and hopefully impact even more than the targeted goal of 160 families.

The fact that such a heavy, time-intensive effort is needed to reach a fraction of the ALICE families in Jamestown should be an indicator that state, county and federal lawmakers need to rethink how we are educating children and the effects of taxes and regulations on job creators and wages.

One reason local non-profit agencies, schools and colleges have so much work to do is because too few students graduate from high school and college ready for the types of jobs that are available. And every tax increase, rate increase, new mandate and regulation imposed by local and state governments make it even harder to create the types of jobs that can sustain a family that, right now, struggles to make ends meet.

Jamestown certainly will make use of the $1 million ESPRI grant. Local agencies will do their best. But maybe there wouldn’t be so much to do if we had made better decisions over the past few decades.