Granite State Rumblings: The Scourge of Child Poverty

Did you know…History has proven that when the government invests in jobs and policies to increase workers’ wages and families’ economic security, children and families see improved outcomes in both the short and long term.

Child poverty in New Hampshire continues to remain stubbornly high. We do not yet have the numbers for 2015, the census bureau will release them this fall. But in 2014 the child poverty rate rose, with 13 percent of New Hampshire children living in poverty – an increase from 2013 when 10.2 percent of our children were poor.

For a family of four in 2014, the official poverty line was less than $24,230. Despite this low threshold, more than 47,000 Granite Staters live on far less, below half of the poverty level.

Research by the Carsey School of Public Policy shows that “while New Hampshire children are somewhat better off than those across the nation, New Hampshire still has a growing trend in inequality in terms of poverty and family income. Low-income children and poor children are on the rise after decades of decline and income is pretty much all but stagnated for those in lower income groups. This means that more and more, there is this likely growing gap in outcomes between worse-and better-off children in New Hampshire.”
Vulnerable Families Research Associate Andrew Schaefer speaking with NHPR’s Peter Biello in May 2015.

While we have seen a decrease in TANF caseloads due to an improved economy and legislative changes to eligibility over the last 6 years, there are still nearly 4,000 children who rely on the small TANF grant each month to help provide for their basic needs. And continued cuts to the DHHS budget year after year are taking its toll on them as well.

Children are the poorest people in our State – a child in New Hampshire has a 1 in 8 chance of being poor and the younger s/he is the poorer s/he is likely to be.

Poverty is incredibly complex; driven by a multitude of factors that negatively impact the lives of individuals, families and especially children. And the struggle to emerge is a daily battle unlike most of us can imagine.

It is also incredibly expensive.

For kids, growing up poor has lifelong negative consequences, from decreasing their likelihood of graduating from high school, suffering from poor health, becoming involved in the criminal justice system, and an increased likelihood of becoming a poor adult.

For our state, these impacts mean millions of dollars to our economy in lost productivity and increased health and criminal justice costs.

But there are tools in our toolbox to help reduce child poverty and eliminate the ever growing opportunity gap in our state. And New Hampshire legislators now have an opportunity to invest in a program designed to add a new powerful tool to that box. It is called Gateway to Work.


Tuesday, June 7, 11:30am – 12:30pm
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Positive Solutions for Families, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua, One Positive Place, Nashua, NH

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In her State of the State address, Governor Maggie Hassan introduced the Gateway to Work program to assist unemployed and underemployed individuals to create a solid and sustainable career path.

As an advocate for low-income children and families for many years in our state, and a member and current chair of the Family Assistance Advisory Council since its inception in 1996, I was pleased to be invited to participate in a brainstorming and planning session on this initiative in February.

Having worked with and listened to families struggling to break out of poverty there was one common thread that came through – “if only I had a better job and the ability to make more money.”

And many experts agree. The best pathway out of poverty is a well-paying job. But a job alone is not enough. Participants must have the opportunity to develop a career path that is both realistic and attainable. And it must ensure that they are prepared for jobs with wages that will give them a sustainable path out of poverty and put them on the road into the middle class. There needs to be work readiness and occupational skills training, supportive services to overcome barriers to employment, coaching, subsidized employment and access to work supports such as transportation and affordable, quality childcare, as well as a tract for continuing education.

The Gateway to Work program proposes to get people there by expanding the Granite State workforce and expanding opportunity to help families and individuals move out of poverty and stay out.

The initiative has 4 goals:

  1. Expand New Hampshire’s workforce to meet the growing needs of our businesses;
  2. Create new pathways to the workforce by expanding training, case management and support to families working to reach the middle class;
  3. Help individuals and families get on a career path that will allow them to sustain themselves and their families;
  4. Reduce long-term costs to taxpayers.

The program which will be funded by repurposing existing Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds. The program will concentrate on three populations:

  • New Hampshire Employment Program participants (TANF families)
  • Women in the Corrections System who will be transitioning out
  • At-risk Youth

For work-ready individualsthose who may be in the workforce or have workforce experience, but unable to attain self-sufficiency due to a lack of skills or other barriers – there will be:

  • Case management services and support for 12 months,
  • Subsidized employment for a very limited amount of time that would match half of a salary, up to double the minimum wage.
  • On the job training or an off-site training program for credentialing if a job requirement.
  • Work support assistance for transportation, childcare, work required tools or uniforms.

An Apprenticeship Programfor individuals who have some education and workforce experience, and with additional training will be able to move up the career ladder to jobs that ensure self-sufficiency. For these individuals there will be:

  • Opportunities for apprenticeships in high-needs areas with strong career paths.
  • Outreach coordinators to businesses to ensure apprenticeship programs are meeting industry’s needs, and to create new apprenticeship partnerships.
  • Case management services for 12 months to ensure success in apprenticeship programs and transition into a full-time job with ongoing support during the initial months of employment.
  • Work support assistance for transportation, childcare, work required tools or uniforms.

High-Need Individualsthose who face multiple barriers to successful employment, such as a lack of education, little or no experience in the workforce, a history of substance abuse issues – there will be:

  • Intensive case management services to help ensure access to safe housing, remedial education and counseling, and the development of soft skills to assist in successful workforce entry when ready.
  • Subsidized employment.
  • On the job training
  • Work supports –  assistance in acquiring a GED, transportation, childcare, or work required tools or clothing.
  • Elimination of the state share of the child care co-payment for TANF families.
  • Increase in home visiting program for at-risk families.
  • A dedicated case manager to work on a pilot program with women inmates to assist in job placement as they are released.

The Next Generation of Workforceat-risk youth will receive the following assistance:

  • Expansion of summer youth employment opportunities.
  • Pilot program to allow counselors to work with at-risk middle school students to develop career and education goals and plans.
  • Pilot program to expand access to after-school and summer activities for at-risk youth ages 13-17, including educational and summer apprenticeship programs.

New Hampshire prides itself on finding innovative, bi-partisan approaches to solving problems. I believe that the Gateway to Work program that has been built by the Division of Family Assistance, the Department of Employment Security, the Community College System of NH, and many others is an excellent tool to help conquer child poverty in New Hampshire and put the Granite State on a strong course toward economic growth and prosperity.