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War on poverty - 40 years later


UNDATED (WRN)  The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) includes several agencies creating local opportunities for economic self-sufficiency. Executive Director Bob Jones says poverty is not a partisan issue. He says the discussion about poverty and the role of government needs to be objective.

“What we want to do is to be able to make sure — to start, anyway — to be able to make sure that debate is an objective one, that it looks at the reality of what poverty is, and it becomes a constructive debate about how to attack it, and doesn’t get sucked into all the partisan morass of everything else that’s going on right now.”

The association celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. This milestone is a chance to focus on how members can raise awareness about poverty and provide value for years to come. Jones says the concept of member agencies is to provide low-income residents equal opportunity, but he says, not necessarily equal outcomes.

“Give them the tools so they can do these long term. Now, our agencies certainly engage in short term emergency services. Those are very important, they are very valid. You have to eat; you have to have a full stomach so you can look for a job or hold your job well. So we have food pantries, clothing shelters, bill payment assistance for energy — all very important. But the major flux is to get them the tools they need so they can get out of poverty, not stay in it.”

Tools, he says, like weatherization for homes to reduce utility bills for the long term and better paying jobs to help make ends meet.

They’ve had a lot of success in the war on poverty, but he says, “When you fight a war, you also need ammunition.” Resources include federal and state, local and private, human and material, but Jones says, it’s a battle to keep the funding alive.

In 2013, WISCAP’s network reduced or eliminated more than 578,000 separate and distinct conditions of poverty that create barriers to economic security and community well-being. Funding comes from various sources — 60 percent from the federal government, the state, local government, and private sources also contribute.