JUNEAU – Representatives Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) and Neal Foster (D-Nome) introduced House Resolution 8 on Wednesday, to create the House Legislative Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity that will address issues of poverty and economic opportunity in Alaska.
“I represent the lowest income urban district in the state where 45% of the children live in poverty and my neighbors were disproportionately harmed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Geran Tarr. “It was so difficult to try and secure assistance, often with long wait times and no certainty the assistance would come at all. This highlighted the systemic issues with our economic system and the need for change. My neighbors work very hard, but still live on the edge, and intergenerational poverty and disproportionate impacts to communities of color must be addressed. We can do something to reduce this and I want to try.”
“The top issues facing rural Alaska are access to affordable housing, clean drinking water, and sanitation services,” said Representative Neal Foster. “This task force will help identify long-term solutions that will benefit generations.”
The House Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity would include diverse members, including Alaskans with lived experience, to review current statutes, draft policy recommendations addressing issues of poverty, and serve as a transparent forum for public engagement. This task force would create and publish educational materials around issues of intergenerational poverty, welfare dependency, and other factors contributing to these issues.
This necessity of this joint task force was echoed by nonprofit leaders from around the state.
“The biggest problem a child should have is not where I will sleep tonight, or what will I eat tonight, or what will I eat for my one meal today? It should be how do I solve this math problem, or can I finish this story before class tomorrow,” said Patrick Anderson, CEO of the Rural Alaska Community Action Program. “As a community we can and should solve poverty. This task force is a chance for us to start.”
“As the state’s lead organization focused on child abuse and neglect, the Children’s Trust recognizes the major role poverty plays in families’ lives,” said Trevor Storrs, President and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust. “Poverty is a major barrier to families gaining the knowledge, skills, supports, and resources they need to thrive, putting them at greater risk of entering the child protective services system.”
House Resolution 8 now goes to the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee for further consideration.