DENVER - Colorado lawmakers said Monday that the state lags the nation in poverty prevention and they plan to cut the poverty rate in half by 2019.
Rep. John Kefalas, a Democrat from Fort Collins, heads a 10-member task force that will look at the root causes of poverty and try to determine why some parts of the state have more poverty than others.
"We've given ourselves a year, to December of 2010, to put together a plan of action," Kefalas said.
Jodie Levin-Epstein, spokeswoman for the Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit organization focused on laws and policies that affect poverty, told lawmakers that Colorado is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to dealing with the issue.
She said people who are trying to get out of poverty are stymied by poverty measures that are based on life in the past century, when moms stayed at home and husbands were the family breadwinner. She said lawmakers have failed to take into account the cost of health care, transportation and tax policies that make it difficult for families to escape poverty.
"We need to figure out ways to make work work," she told the panel.
More than half the children from poor families in Colorado are at the extreme poverty level where families of four earn less than $10,500 a year, Levin-Epstein said.
Kefalas said in order to reduce poverty, lawmakers need to look at economic development and not just government programs.
Kefalas said lawmakers and private organizations need to make sure jobs that are created meet the needs of private businesses. He said the state also needs fair and sustainable tax policies, and to examine the role of education, health care, housing, income, child care and nutrition.