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Solutions Proposed for Growing Number of New Yorkers in Poverty

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 By Mike CliffordContact
September 21, 2010

NEW YORK - Consider jobs that offer a living wage, next time you offer a tax break for business. That's one way, experts say, that New York State can combat the biggest jump in poverty in 15 years. With more than three million New Yorkers officially living in poverty, and millions more struggling to make ends meet, Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, says the state needs to take the long view.

He suggests the next time lawmakers consider granting a tax cut to bring a new business to town, they also should consider what kinds of wages are involved.

"If we really want a positive long term strategy, we have to be reducing the number of people who have jobs that don't keep them out of poverty. It'll make things better for people and their children, but we also make it better for the state's budget."

Gwen O'Shea, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, says that, without reliable Census data, it would be easy to turn a blind eye to the growing problem of poverty in a wealthy state like New York.

"The Census count is extremely important in the hopes that it will continue to shed light on some of the invisible areas of poverty, and in areas like Long Island, because of how scattered these pockets are, very often it's easy for people to not focus on them."

Frank Mauro says New York's poverty rate would have been a lot worse had it not been for the Obama stimulus, and he believes more stimulus could be the best prescription for an economy that's still ailing.

"Until we begin to see a real strong comeback in jobs, there's not going to be a comeback in wages, and we're going to see more and more people who work, needing extra help."

With Medicaid costs one of the biggest producers of red ink in the state budget, Mauro says the best way to reduce that cost is to pay more New Yorkers a big enough paycheck so they don't need that kind of help.

Opponents say trying to increase wages in tough times could put more people out of work.

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