Five Things We Can Do to Reduce Poverty

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This week there's been discussion about rising trends in poverty, the fragility of the safety net, the possibilities and limits of social enterprise, and obstacles to reducing poverty. Despite the challenges ahead, I think it's important to recognize there is a lot we can do to reduce poverty and create solutions that will help families weather tough economic times in the coming decade. More after the jump . . .

1) Give $25 to a Local Charity. It sounds modest at first, but if every person in your neighborhood gave just $25 to a local charity or nonprofit service provider they hadn't supported before - we'd inject billions of private giving into programs helping the poor. The Obama campaign has demonstrated how this kind of grassroots giving can generate large pools of resources in short order. Don't know where to give? Contact your local community foundation or United Way, and ask which nonprofits are helping working poor families in communities with the most pressing need. 2) Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is the largest cash assistance program for working poor families today - providing nearly $5 in assistance for every $1 we provide through traditional welfare programs. One of the EITC's key strengths is that it "makes work pay" by providing wage supplements to millions of low-income workers that help to lift many of them out of poverty. Not only could the amount of the credit be increased to provide more income to working poor families, particularly to low-income childless workers, but eligibility could be expanded to include a broader range of working poor households, and the phase out could be flattened to allow more working poor families to remain eligible as their earnings increase (click here to see the Brookings Institution's work on the topic). The federal stimulus package enacted some expansions in the EITC for larger families and married couples, but more can be done. 3) Cash for Clunkers II. Now that the middle class has got...
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