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Groups Offer to "Root Out" Poverty with Federal Stimulus Money


Thursday, March 26, 2009   

Tallahassee, FL - As Florida legislators deliberate what to cut from the state budget, community action workers are travelling to Tallahassee to tell them about a new campaign they say is rooting out poverty with federal stimulus dollars.

John Edwards, board chairman of Community Action Partnership, says Florida stands to get a big influx of federal dollars: $47 million for ongoing programs, which is nearly $30 million more than last year, and an additional $175 million to weatherize low-income people's homes.

"Programs like ours are clearly being utilized to the breaking point. This money, this new federal appropriation, has come in the nick of time to help people."

Edwards says members of his group met with their legislators but did not ask for any additional state funding in these tight times. Instead, they offered help from their statewide network, which was established as a safety net to help low-income families with employment, housing, energy bills, education and food.

More than 2 million Floridians live below the poverty level, with nearly one in 10 using food stamps. Right now, Florida's unemployment rate is above 8 percent, and the state also has the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

The Florida Association for Community Action is the frontline in America's war on poverty, according to executive director Wilma McKay. She says they have been losing that war because of the struggle to keep up with the growing demand for services, especially from first-time applicants. Federal stimulus dollars will allow them to gear up, hire more people and provide more care, she says.

"The stimulus is going to give us an opportunity to touch the lives of many more people. The agencies already had waiting lists, but I think it is going to clear up the waiting lists, and it's going to help a lot of these people who are falling into poverty as a result of unemployment and losing their homes."

Edwards says the "Root Out Poverty" campaign is dedicated not only to sustaining low-income families now, but to creating an economy that benefits everyone.

"The more we are able to help people become self-sufficient, the less dependent they will be on subsidized income. That creates an opportunity for them to pay taxes, and it will certainly reduce crime in low-income communities."

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