Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) has announced the formation of a new legislative caucus focused on poverty and inequality in California. The mission of the Ending Poverty and Inequality in California (EPIC) Caucus is to reduce the number of people living in poverty and to increase economic opportunity for all Californians. Senator DeSaulnier will serve as chair of the caucus, which is supported by leaders from both legislative houses.
“The California Dream remains a reality for many from the Silicon Valley to the Hollywood Hills, but there is another California that can no longer be ignored,” Senator DeSaulnier said. “Nearly one in four of our fellow Californians live in poverty, one-third of the 6 million impoverished Californians are children, and California is home to nearly one-third of the nation’s chronically homeless individuals. Endemic, crippling poverty should no longer exist amidst the world’s greatest wealth. As more Californians struggle to remain in the middle class, our entire economy is hindered. This caucus is our commitment to tackle the causes of poverty and inequality in California in a bi-cameral, data driven manner.”
“We’ve taken small but important steps to help those struggling with poverty in California but we must do much more. In a state of such wealth, it’s simply unacceptable that almost one in every four Californians struggles with meeting the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter,” said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. “While poverty has always been part of the world’s historic fabric, we have a duty to closely examine whatever solutions are possible to reduce the poverty among us.”
“The greatest state in the nation should not have the highest level of child poverty,” Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said. “That’s why Assembly Democrats have laid out a budget blueprint designed to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty with prudent investments to break the cycle of poverty.”
Goals of the EPIC Caucus include:
- Increasing awareness by elevating the conversation around poverty and inequality
- Working with the Executive branch, academia, employers, community based organizations, labor, local government and others to develop and implement data driven policy changes to reduce poverty rates and increase income equality
- Providing a lasting structure within the Legislature to regularly examine the state of poverty and income inequality in California and to drive policy change
The EPIC Caucus has a diverse group of initial partners, including Western Center on Law and Poverty, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California, the California Business Roundtable, and the County Welfare Directors Association of California.
“I want to thank pro Tem Steinberg and Speaker Pérez for their support of the EPIC caucus, and their leadership in the fight to expand the middle class in California. I would also like to thank Senators Hancock, Liu, Monning, Mitchell, Padilla and Wright for their early support of the EPIC caucus. With their commitment we can renew the fight to end poverty in California,” Senator DeSaulnier said.
Millions of Californians feel the impact of poverty every day. The 2011 Census reports that 16.3 percent of Californians live at or below the federal poverty level. This number jumps to 23.5 percent of Californians when expanding the federal poverty level formula to include basic needs, such as clothing, shelter, utilities and government programs designed to assist low income families.
Poverty has a large impact on some of our most vulnerable populations, including children. One-third of the 6 million impoverished Californians are children. Nearly one out of four children in the state is currently living in a poverty-stricken household. The impact of childhood poverty can last a lifetime; children who grow up in poverty are three times as likely to live in poverty as adults.