Tag Archives: hunger

Tammy Baldwin, Cory Booker introduce bill to address poverty

Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced legislation this week to fight poverty through transitional jobs and expanded tax credits.

Titled “The Stronger Way Act,” the bill would create a new transitional jobs grant program at the Department of Labor, expand Earned Income Tax Credits and make changes to the Child Tax Credit.

“The idea is that if you are working full time that you should not be in poverty in the United States,” Baldwin said.

Community backers of the bill hope that it will overcome the partisan divide in Congress by incentivizing work instead of adding benefits for the unemployed.

“There’s not a penny of welfare in this. This is all based on work,” said David Riemer, senior fellow at the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in Milwaukee. “You don’t get any of this money unless you’re a worker.”

But the lack of corresponding cuts for the estimated $560 billion tax reduction over 10 years could be a sticking point for some Republicans, who control both houses of Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, has advocated expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit but has proposed paying for it by eliminating other programs.

Baldwin pointed to tax cuts for the wealthy that haven’t been funded, and community advocates said the changes would reduce the financial burden on the welfare system overall.

The bill would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit’s rate of return for working families with children, thereby allowing lower-income families to get larger refunds.

It would also expand that tax credit for childless workers, a group the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says is the lone group the federal government taxes deeper into poverty. The act would make more of them eligible for Earned Income Tax Credits and increase the amount they can receive, benefiting an estimated 20 million childless workers.

The bill would also adjust the Child Tax Credit system to benefit the lowest income families, allowing them to capture more of the $1,000-per-child maximum refund.

“There are minimum wage workers right now that are taxed into poverty. This will allow us to reverse that,” Baldwin said.

The legislation would also create a grant program for transitional jobs programs, but Congress would have to pass additional legislation to allocate funding to the program.

“Transitional jobs are I think a key ingredient for any broad anti-poverty strategy and one that we have, at the moment, really failed to put enough resources behind,” said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, director of the Project on Deep Poverty and a senior fellow at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Dutta-Gupta said states had to develop the programs from scratch during the last recession. When the next recession hits, he said, it will benefit employers, workers and taxpayers to have programs already in place. Baldwin said there are at least 20 states, including Wisconsin, with transitional jobs programs and bipartisan support.

“We’ve found something that really works, that is very, very effective,” Baldwin said. “We need to scale that up nationally if we’re going to make a true dent in poverty that centers around the dignity of work.”

Baldwin said each of the components of the bill have enjoyed bipartisan support at the national level, so she hopes the combined bill will garner similar support. A spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said he will review Baldwin’s proposals when they are available.

Wisconsin poverty rate remains unchanged

Wisconsin’s poverty rate remained unchanged from 2013 to 2014, despite the addition of almost 60,000 jobs.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers studying economic and policy forces affecting poverty said the rate remained unchanged at 10.8 percent in the eighth annual Wisconsin Poverty Report.

They cited low-wage jobs and part-time employment as factors in the unchanged poverty rate. Other factors included Republican initiatives to decrease antipoverty efforts — including food assistance and refundable tax credits and increases in medical expenses and work-related costs.

Four counties had poverty rates higher than the statewide average of 10.8:

• Dane County, 13.5 percent.

• Walworth County, 16.6 percent.

• Kenosha County, 16.7 percent.

• Milwaukee County, 17.3 percent.

Poverty rates in Washington/Ozaukee, Fond du Lac/Calumet, St. Croix/Dunn, Marathon, Sheboygan and Waukesha were lower than the state average.

Timothy Smeeding, an economist at UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, and Katherine Thornton, a programmer analyst at the Institute for Research on Poverty, developed the analysis outlined in the study.

Meanwhile, a new analysis of poverty in the United States from the Food Research and Action Center finds one in six households struggled to put food on the table in 2015.

“The data in this report represent an economic and political failure that is leaving tens of millions of Americans struggling with hunger and this struggle is happening in every community in America,” FRAC president Jim Weill said. “We must redouble our efforts to ensure no American is left behind.”

Food hardship was highest in Mississippi, where 23 percent of households struggled to buy food.

The low, 8.4 percent, was in North Dakota.

Wisconsin’s hardship rate was 12 percent.

FRAC, in its How Hungry is America? report, called for boosting wages and strengthening government programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition campaigns.

Hard times

How is food hardship measured? Gallup, in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, measures food hardship with the following question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

On the Web

Go online to www.wisconsingazette.com to find the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s special report on poverty’s toll on young brains and work to close the academic achievement gap.

25 groups call on Scott Walker to restore food assistance

The following open letter to Gov. Scott Walker urges him to remove time limits for people on FoodShare who live in 20 counties and 10 cities in Wisconsin with high unemployment rates.

Dear Gov. Walker,

As FoodShare participants are losing food aid at higher than projected rates, we urge you to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture from harmful FoodShare time limits and protect vulnerable Wisconsinites in areas that are lagging behind in economic recovery. Currently, up to 20 Wisconsin counties and 10 cities are eligible for a waiver from Time Limited Benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Wisconsin should request this waiver.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), referred to as FoodShare in Wisconsin, assists low-income adults, children, and seniors in Wisconsin with funds to purchase groceries. In order to receive FoodShare benefits for more than three months within a three year time period, non-exempt able bodied adults without dependent children must work at least 20 hours per week, a requirement instituted under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. During the recent recession, elevated unemployment rates made many areas across Wisconsin eligible for a time limit waiver.

Prior to the economy fully recovering in all parts of the state, time limits for FoodShare were imposed statewide as of April 1, 2015. Those recipients who cannot find work on their own can maintain their benefits by participating in the state’s FoodShare Employment and Training Program (FSET), which is outsourced to private agencies contracted regionally throughout the state. Failure to meet an employment program’s mandates means individuals are eligible for only three months of FoodShare Time Limited Benefits out of every 36- month period.

In April through December of 2015, 62,458 individuals, or 7.7 percent of the total FoodShare recipients, were referred to FSET to meet the program mandates. During just the first six months of the disenrollment period, 30,453 people lost their benefits because they did not meet these mandates, including some who participated in FSET and were unable to gain sufficient employment as a result. This disenrollment is occurring much faster than originally projected – in 2013, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau projected a statewide disenrollment of 31,349 over the course of the entire first year of imposing time limits.

Unfortunately, mandating work does not create jobs. For those living in areas of high unemployment, the situation was already dismal. As a state, we must not take away food aid for failure to find a job in areas of our state where economic recovery is still hoped for rather than assured. Securing a job remains a significant challenge for many in Wisconsin, and unemployment continues to be high in particular parts of the state. Areas with persistently high unemployment are clustered in the rural northern portions of the state, while urban areas with high unemployment are located in the southeastern portion of the state. These parts of the state qualify as “Labor Surplus Areas” where there are significantly fewer jobs available than people looking for work. Disparities in our state are pronounced: while the unemployment rate in the majority of our state’s counties falls below that of the nation as a whole, several counties have unemployment rates above 9%. Thus, considering Wisconsin’s unemployment situation as a whole does not adequately capture the unique challenges faced by job seekers in different geographical locations across our state.

In addition, the FoodShare program is not only instrumental in improving food security for low income individuals and families, but it also increases spending in local economies as recipients purchase food within the community they live. The decline in FoodShare enrollment due to the reimplementation of Time Limited Benefits amounts to a monthly loss of approximately $3,244,271 in federal money spent at grocery stores in communities across Wisconsin. Finally, failure to seek a Time Limited Benefits waiver for qualifying areas in this state creates increased demand for emergency soup kitchens and food pantries, placing an unmanageable burden on local charitable resources to provide food. Mandatory FSET participation will continue to push people into deeper dependency as they become reliant upon charity for the basic need of food. Furthermore, forcing individuals to utilize charitable resources robs them of the dignity of going to the grocery store to select food that meets their nutritional needs and cultural preferences.

For all of these reasons, the undersigned organizations respectfully request that Wisconsin seek a waiver for eligible parts of our state and stop imposing three month time limits on receiving food aid in those areas.

Sincerely,

Hunger Task Force

Community Advocates

Public Policy Institute

Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice

Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health

Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups

WISDOM

Wisconsin Education Association Council

Wisconsin Council of Churches

Citizen Action of Wisconsin

9to5 Wisconsin

Wisconsin Council on Children and Families

Mental Health America of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Catholic Conference

Good Samaritan COGIC

Ebenezer COGIC

The Sharing Center Friedens

Food Pantry St. Veronica’s

Food Pantry La Causa

Amani Community Food Pantry

Family Life Center

Tosa Community Food Pantry

Daystar The Gathering

The Cathedral Center Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH)

Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP)

Feeding Wisconsin

Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources, Inc. (GWAAR)

Jeremiah Missionary Baptist Church Food Pantry

 

 

 

1 million could lose food stamps in 21 states, including Wisconsin

More than 1 million low-income residents in 21 states could soon lose their government food stamps if they fail to meet work requirements that began kicking in this month.

The rule change in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was triggered by the improving economy – specifically, falling unemployment. But it is raising concerns among the poor, social service providers and food pantry workers, who fear an influx of hungry people.

Recent experience in other states indicates that most of those affected will probably not meet the work requirements and will be cut off from food stamps.

For many people, “it means less food, less adequate nutrition. And over the span of time, that can certainly have an impact on health – and the health care system,” said Dave Krepcho, president and chief executive of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Advocates say some adults trying to find work face a host of obstacles, including criminal records, disabilities or lack of a driver’s license.

The work-for-food requirements were first enacted under the 1996 welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton and sponsored by then-Rep. John Kasich, who is now Ohio’s governor and a Republican candidate for president.

The provision applies to able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49 who have no children or other dependents in their home. It requires them to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training courses at least 80 hours a month to receive food aid. If they don’t, their benefits are cut off after three months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture can waive those work rules, either for entire states or certain counties and communities, when unemployment is high and jobs are scarce. Nearly every state was granted a waiver during the recession that began in 2008. But statewide waivers ended this month in at least 21 states, the largest group since the recession.

An Associated Press analysis of food aid figures shows that nearly 1.1 million adults stand to lose their benefits in those 21 states if they do not get a job or an exemption. That includes about 300,000 in Florida, 150,000 in Tennessee and 110,000 in North Carolina. The three states account for such a big share because they did not seek any further waivers for local communities.

In Tennessee, Terry Work said her 27-year-old deaf son recently was denied disability payments, meaning he is considered able-bodied. And that means he stands to lose his food stamps, even though she said her son has trouble keeping a job because of his deafness.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of people in the county hurt by this,” said Work, founder of Helping Hands of Hickman County, a social service agency in a community about an hour west of Nashville.

Nationwide, some 4.7 million food stamp recipients are deemed able-bodied adults without dependents, according to USDA. Only 1 in 4 has any income from a job. They receive an average of $164 a month from the program.

In states that already have implemented the work requirements, many recipients have ended up losing their benefits.

Wisconsin began phasing in work requirements last spring. Of the 22,500 able-bodied adults who became subject to the change between April and June, two-thirds were dropped from the rolls three months later for failing to meet the requirements.

Some states could have applied for partial waivers but chose not to do so.

North Carolina’s Republican-led government enacted a law last fall accelerating implementation of the work requirements and barring the state from seeking waivers unless there is a natural disaster. State Sen. Ralph Hise said the state was doing a disservice to the unemployed by providing them long-term food aid.

“People are developing gaps on their resumes, and it’s actually making it harder for individuals to ultimately find employment,” said Hise, a Republican who represents a rural part of western North Carolina.

In Missouri, the GOP-led Legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to enact a law barring the state from waiving work requirements until at least 2019. The three-month clock started ticking Jan. 1 for 60,000 people in Missouri, where unemployment is down to just 4.4 percent.

“We were seeing a lot of people who were receiving food stamps who weren’t even trying to get a job,” said the law’s sponsor, Sen. David Sater, a Republican whose Missouri district includes the tourist destination of Branson. “I know in my area you can find a temporary job for 20 hours (a week) fairly easily. It just didn’t seem right to me to have somebody doing nothing and receiving food stamps.”

Others say it’s not that simple to find work, even with an improving economy.

Joe Heflin, 33, of Jefferson City, said he has been receiving food stamps for more than five years, since an injury ended his steady job as an iron worker and led to mental illness during his recovery. He said he gets nearly $200 a month in food stamps and has no other income. Heflin was recently notified that his food stamps could end if he doesn’t get a job or a disability exemption.

“I think it’s a crummy deal,” Heflin said while waiting in line at a food pantry. “I think they ought to look into individuals more, or at least hear them out. … I depend on it, you know, to eat.”

Policymakers often “don’t realize a lot of the struggles those individuals are dealing with,” said Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Some are dealing with trauma from military service or exposure to violence and abuse, Chilton said. Others have recently gotten out of prison, making employers hesitant to hire them. Some adults who are considered able-bodied nonetheless have physical or mental problems.

A study of 4,145 food stamp recipients in Franklin County, Ohio, who became subject to work requirements between December 2013 and February 2015 found that more than 30 percent said they had physical or mental limitations that affected their ability to work. A similar percentage had no high school diploma or equivalency degree. And 61 percent lacked a driver’s license.

“There should have been more thought on how we look at employment and not thinking that people are sitting there, getting food stamps because they are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Octavia Rainey, a community activist in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Some states have programs to help food stamp recipients improve their job skills. Elsewhere, it’s up to individuals to find programs run by nonprofit groups or by other state agencies. Sometimes, that can be daunting.

Rainey said people who received letters informing them they could lose their food stamps sometimes were placed on hold when they called for more information – a problem for those using prepaid calling cards. And in Florida, food aid recipients received letters directing them to a state website for information.

“A lot of these folks, they don’t have computers, they don’t have broadband access,” said Krepcho, the Central Florida food bank executive. “That’s ripe for people falling off the rolls.”

On-campus food pantry to feed needy students at UW-Madison

A group aiming to help hungry college students is opening a food pantry on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Donations of canned food are being collected in campus offices and dorms to stock the pantry, called the Open Seat.

Advocates say hungry students often go unnoticed in their struggle to afford food, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“It’s clear that we need something like this,” said Kyla Kaplan, vice chairwoman of the Associated Students of Madison and an organizer behind the Open Seat. “Food insecurity is a bigger issue than people realize.”

A growing number of colleges and universities have opened food pantries in recent years. The Open Seat will be located inside the Student Activities Center on East Campus Mall. It is believed to be the first pantry on the grounds of UW-Madison.

It is unclear how many students at UW-Madison struggle to pay for food, or how prevalent the problem is on campuses nationwide. But a recent survey by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, which researches issues that affect college students from low-income families and is based at UW-Madison, found that 22 percent of students at 10 community and technical colleges across the country reported they skipped meals because they couldn’t afford to eat.

The lab is working to collect data on UW-Madison students, said student Brooke Evans, who works there.

Evans recalls subsisting on donated cans of fruit cocktail and cream of mushroom soup when she was homeless and hungry. She said she used to take the bus to a north side food pantry every week, spending hours to make sure she would have enough to eat.

On top of her coursework, being homeless and hungry meant that Evans was preoccupied with more basic needs her classmates did not have to think about, such as where she was going to eat that day.

Now that she has a place to live and government assistance to pay for groceries, Evans is part of the group organizing the Open Seat. She said having the pantry on campus will give students “the opportunity to live the most standard life, like the rest of their peers do.”

Associated Students of Madison will spend about $20,000 from student segregated fees this year to hire staff and pay for operational costs at the Open Seat.

Bill introduced to reduce food waste, create energy

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine is calling for a comprehensive plan to reduce food waste.

The Democrat says her proposal will help farms, retailers, restaurants and schools waste less food. She says it will also divert high-quality food to food banks and turn non-edible scraps into energy or compost.

Pingree says she formally submitted the bill earlier this month. The Portland Press Herald reports the bill would also standardize the “best by” date labeling that manufacturers use on food.

Pingree’s office says 40 percent of food produced in the country is wasted and uneaten food costs $161 billion annually.

Shift the food system | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

Dear future family, I know you will not read this note until the turn of the century, but I want to explain what things were like back in 2015, before we figured out how to roll back climate change. As a civilization, we were still locked into a zero-sum idea of our relationship with the natural world, in which we assumed that for us to get whatever we needed, whether it was food or energy or entertainment, nature had to be diminished. But that was never necessarily the case.

In our time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture still handed out subsidies to farmers for every bushel of corn, wheat or rice they could grow. This promoted a form of agriculture that was extremely productive and extremely destructive — of the climate, among other things.

Approximately one-third of the carbon then in the atmosphere had formerly been sequestered in soils in the form of organic matter, but since we began plowing and deforesting, we’d been releasing huge quantities of this carbon into the atmosphere. At that time, the food system as a whole — that includes agriculture, food processing, and food transportation — contributed somewhere between 20 to 30 percent of the greenhouse gases produced by civilization — more than any other sector except energy. Fertilizer was always one of the biggest culprits for two reasons: it’s made from fossil fuels and when you spread it on fields and it gets wet, it turns into nitrous oxide, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Slowly, we convinced the policymakers to instead give subsidies to farmers for every increment of carbon they sequestered in the soil.

Over time, we began to organize our agriculture so that it could heal the planet, feed us and tackle climate change. This began with shifting our food system from its reliance on oil, which is the central fact of industrial agriculture (not just machinery, but pesticides and fertilizers are all oil-based technologies), back to a reliance on solar energy: photosynthesis.

Carbon farming was one of the most hopeful things going on at that time in climate change research. We discovered that plants secrete sugars into the soil to feed the microbes they depend on, in the process putting carbon into the soil. This process of sequestering carbon at the same time improved the fertility and water-holding capacity of the soil. We began relying on the sun — on photosynthesis — rather than on fossil fuels to feed ourselves. We learned that there are non-zero-sum ways we could feed ourselves and heal the Earth. That was just one of the big changes we made toward the sustainable food system you are lucky enough to take for granted.

Editor’s note: World leaders convene in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. In fact, December of 2015 may be humanity’s last chance to address the crisis of our time.

Will the nations of the world finally pass a global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will we fail at this most crucial task?

Here and on letterstothefuture.org, find letters from authors, artists, scientists and others, written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. Read these letters and write one of your own. The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks.



News guide: A look at the protests at the University of Missouri

Racially charged incidents at the University of Missouri led to numerous protests, a hunger strike by a graduate student and at least 30 black football players announcing they were on strike. Many students called for the president of the four-campus system to be removed, and he stepped down Monday. Here’s a look at the situation:

WHAT’S NEW

University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe and Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Monday that they are resigning after months of student anger over the university’s handling of racial issues. A black student’s hunger strike and the weekend announcement by 30 black football players that they wouldn’t be participating in team activities until the Wolfe was removed helped bring the issue to a head.

At a special meeting of the system’s governing board, Wolfe said he takes “full responsibility for the frustration” students had expressed regarding racial issues and that he hopes the school community uses his resignation “to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary.”

Wolfe’s resignation is effective immediately.

After Wolfe’s announcement, Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student who went on a hunger strike on Nov. 2 and vowed to not eat until Wolfe was gone, tweeted that his strike was over.

Loftin said he’s stepping down at the end of the year and will shift to leading research efforts.

THE BACKGROUND

The treatment of minorities has been the focus at the state system’s flagship campus in Columbia, and campus groups, including one called Concerned Student 1950, that have been protesting the way Wolfe has handled matters of race and discrimination. The 35,000-student population is overwhelmingly white.

The football players issued a statement aligning themselves with campus groups, and on Sunday, coach Gary Pinkel expressed solidarity on Twitter by posting a picture of the team and coaches locking arms. His tweet read: “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.”

Wolfe responded to the criticism Sunday, saying that it “is clear to all of us that change is needed” and adding that his administration has been “meeting around the clock” to address the issue. The statement, however, made no mention of Wolfe resigning.

The protests began early in the semester after Missouri’s student government president, who is black, said he was called a racial slur by the occupant of a passing pickup truck while walking on campus. Days before the Oct. 10 homecoming parade, members of the Legions of Black Collegians said racial slurs were directed at them by an unidentified person walking by. And a swastika drawn in feces was found recently in a dormitory bathroom.

THE MAJOR PLAYERS

Wolfe, a former software company executive and 1980 Missouri graduate, began leading the four-campus system in February 2012.

Loftin, former president of Texas A&M University, started as chancellor at the Columbia campus in February 2014.

Concerned Student 1950 draws its name from the year the university accepted its first black student, and has demanded, among other things, that Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege” and be removed immediately, and that the school adopt a mandatory racial-awareness program and hire more black faculty and staff members.

WHAT’S NEXT

The University of Missouri system’s governing body plans to begin several initiatives in the next 90 days aimed at improving the racial atmosphere on the system’s four campuses.

The Board of Curators will appoint the system’s first chief of diversity, inclusion and equity officer. Each campus also will have its own such officer.

The board also promised a full review of all policies related to staff and student conduct, more support for those on campus who have experienced discrimination and the hiring of a more diverse faculty and staff.

Changes planned specifically on the Columbia campus include mandatory diversity, inclusion and equity training for all faculty, staff and future students, as well as a review of student mental health services.

Wisconsin poverty rate up from 2007, median income down

Nearly a quarter of a million Wisconsin children lived below the poverty line in 2014, according to new census data released in September.

The state poverty rate was 10.8 percent in 2007, but rose to 13.2 percent last year. About 738,000 people in the state were living in poverty in 2014, 150,000 more than in 2007.

Other numbers indicate the economic recovery since the recession has boosted incomes for wealthier Wisconsinites but the rest have not seen much increase in incomes — if any — since before 2007. The median income for Wisconsin households in 2014 was $56,622, more than $5,000 less than in 2007.

Taking race into consideration, the income disparities are extreme. The poverty rate for people who identified as black or African-American was 37.7 percent in 2014 compared to 9.6 among white non-Hispanic Wisconsinites. The poverty rate for black children was 49.4 percent, four times the rate of white non-Hispanic children.

And the median income for African-American households was $26,100 in 2014, less than half the $56,100 earned by white non-Hispanic households, according to an analysis of the census data by the nonprofit Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

“Wisconsin simply can’t accept three quarters of a million Wisconsinites living in poverty as the ‘new normal,’” said Ken Taylor, executive director of the WCCF. “The economy isn’t working for everyone, resulting in too many families not making ends meet. We need to make sure everyone has the opportunity to climb the economic ladder and build a secure future.”

WCCF’s recommendations to decrease the poverty rate include a hike in the minimum wage along with cost-of-living adjustments, reversal of the 2011 cuts to the state earned income tax credit for low-income families and an expansion of BadgerCare to cover all adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. “No policymaker who claims to care about Wisconsin’s future can justify ignoring poverty,” Taylor said in a news statement. “We’re all in this together. If Wisconsin is going to thrive, everyone needs a shot at opportunity.”

The new data showed the national poverty rate at 15.5 percent in 2014, down slightly from 15.8 percent in 2013.

The census bureau released the information about two weeks before the U.S. visit of Pope Francis, who has prioritized addressing poverty and income inequality.

Francis, who met with President Barack Obama at the White House and delivered a speech before a joint session of Congress, addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 25. 

He referred frequently to the poor and linked extreme poverty to the overconsumption and waste that is wrecking the planet. “Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment,” Francis said. “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste.”

Two days later, in his address to the General Assembly, President Barack Obama committed the United States to the U.N.’s new goals for eliminating poverty and hunger by 2030. 

Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, Obama said, is “not charity but instead is one of the smartest investments we can make in our own future.”

The goals include eradicating extreme poverty, expanding peace and good governance, combating inequality and discrimination, raising living standards and quelling climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said “further progress will require an unswerving political will and collective, long-term effort. We need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”

No poverty, hunger in 15 years? UN sets sweeping new goals

A season of goal-setting begins this month as the United Nations launches a new 15-year plan to fight grinding world poverty, improve health and education and quell climate change.

The Sustainable Development Goals are set for adoption by the 193 U.N. member states shortly after Pope Francis brings his activist message to the world body on Friday — a message sure to include calls to pull back from the abyss of a heating world and to spread global wealth among the neediest.

More than 150 world leaders, including President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, are expected to speak at a three-day summit dedicated to adopting the goals. That meeting precedes the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. beginning Sept. 28.

The new goals land on the global agenda in advance of December’s world meeting in Paris aimed at a comprehensive agreement on curbing accelerating global warming.

The SDGs consist of 17 broad goals and 169 specific targets. They replace the United Nations’ expiring Millennium Development Goals, eight of them, adopted in 2000.

Despite significant progress, the only one of those original goals achieved before this year was halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. That was due primarily to economic growth in China.

Critics of the new goals say they are too broad, lack accountability and will lead to disenchantment among those in the world most in need of hope.

Supporters say there is no choice but to go big in a world of expanding population, growing inequality, dwindling resources and the existential threat from global warming.

“Let’s be realistic about this. This is about survival,” said Susan Brown of the WWF International. “We actually don’t have another choice. We are expanding into our natural resources at a rate which is not sustainable. And I don’t want to think about what the end-game looks like in 15 years if we don’t get this right.”

The goals are estimated to cost the world between $3.5 trillion and $5 trillion a year between 2016 and the end of 2030.

They were the work of a long process involving most countries as thousands of people came together in many gatherings to hash out the new agenda. It will be financed not only by the so-called “developed North” but also by the “needy South” from national development — reaping financial benefits from economic advances among people who are healthier, more equal and better educated.

The earlier Millennium Development Goals relied more on wealthy nations helping poorer ones, and were devised by people working for then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

That kind of top-down approach “wasn’t going to be the case,” with the new agenda, said Michael Elliot, CEO of One.org, an anti-poverty advocacy group. It was clear “the new development agenda had to be truly South as well as North, that it had to be universal, it had to be global, that it had to have from the start a component that reflected a whole set of concerns on the part of developing nations.”

Roger-Mark DeSouza, director of climate, security and population at the Wilson Center, applauds the goals and process that produced them, but he worries about implementation. “That’s the crux of the matter, and I think that is still to be determined.”

“To make the goals realistic across these different country settings, there needs to be more opportunities for community engagement,” he said. 

The 169 targets have not been fully outlined in terms of how success would be measured.

“The targets become critically important to watch in New York (when the goals are officially adopted),” said Ken Conca, an expert in water development and professor at American University’s school of international service. “The things that are most wildly aspirational tend not to be the targets.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has praised the goals but warned that “further progress will require an unswerving political will, and collective, long-term effort. We need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”