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Now is the Time to Focus on Combating Growing Poverty

The much-anticipated official poverty rates for 2008 are out and they are not pleasant. According to the US Census Bureau, the percent of Americans living in poverty increased to 13.2. Nearly nine percent of Whites, 12% of Asians, 23% of Hispanics and 25% of Blacks make up the 40 million people who were living in poverty last year.

Almost one out of every five children living in this country fell into that category. Not only 19% of Americans 18 or younger but 12% of adults aged 18 to 64 and 10% of seniors aged 65 and over were identified as poor. The Brookings Institution expects poverty to rapidly rise through 2011 and 2012.

As depressing as these statistics are, this is not the time to lose hope. They lend timely perspective to current efforts to advance policies that provide low income Americans with the tools and incentives to build their personal savings.

We need to be forward-looking and focus on expanding economic opportunities to combat growing poverty. Asset building proposals at the national level and in California address retirement savings for all workers, college savings for all children, banking the unbanked, reforming TANF/CalWORKs asset limits, EITC awareness and other automatic savings opportunities. These are some of the ways America can ensure that people have the financial tools to be self-sufficient. With appropriate savings and better planning for the future, fewer Americans will suffer from poverty and more will move up the economic ladder.