Community Action News
WISCAP URGES PASSAGE of the WISCONSIN OPPORTUNITY ACT 2019

WISCAP URGES PASSAGE of the WISCONSIN OPPORTUNITY ACT

Contact: Kassidy Berens, Communications Manager
Telephone: 608-244-4422
Email: kberen[email protected]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 8, 2019

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) applauds the introduction of the Wisconsin Opportunity Act (SB 467AB 508) in the Wisconsin State Legislature. The proposal, authored by Senator LaTonya Johnson and Representative Lisa Subeck, advances comprehensive legislation designed to aid communities in the fight against poverty; calling for a renewed investment in housing, transportation, employment and business development training, and other services. The bill, currently co-sponsored by 24 members, was referred to the Senate Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development and the Committee on Housing and Real Estate, respectively.

WISCAP sees this legislation as a necessary step to combat poverty statewide. The Institute for Research on Poverty reports that more than 1 in 10 Wisconsinites live in poverty, with the elderly representing the fastest growing segment of the population. In 2018, the Department of Public Instruction identified 18,854 homeless children and youth throughout the state. And, while unemployment remains low, housing costs have increased out of proportion to earnings. In fact, more than 306,000 people in 163,900 low-income households pay more than half their income for housing.

Community action agencies and their local partners throughout Wisconsin provide a wide range of programs and services that help individuals and families respond to crisis as well as achieve lasting economic security and self-sufficiency. If passed, this bill would help expand such outcomes. According to WISCAP Executive Director Brad Paul, “Whether we consider the impact of lagging wages, rising housing costs, the opioid crisis, or the downturn in the farm economy, both metro and small-town Wisconsin continue to face significant challenges and stress, even as major economic indicators are largely healthy. Senator Johnson and Representative Subeck are keenly aware of how poverty reveals itself in our communities and have offered an important response.”

If you would like more information on the proposed legislation or to schedule an interview, please contact Gary Goyke, Legislative Consultant, (608) 219-5237

***

 
2019 Poverty Matters! Conference

2019 Poverty Matters! Conference

The 2019 Poverty Matters! Conference was held September 11-12, 2019 at the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This year’s theme was “Securing Opportunity in Wisconsin.”

The ‘Poverty Matters!’ conference annually brings together organizations and individuals committed to fighting poverty in local communities throughout Wisconsin. Just over 200 community leaders, managers, front-line workers, board members, human service professionals, educators and advocates alike attended the conference to learn and discuss how low-income individuals, families and communities can work together to promote economic opportunity.

This two-day conference featured 36 workshops, four plenary sessions and an exhibit hall. For a full list of our workshops, you can visit the conference website, linked at the bottom of this article. Our plenary sessions were:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Cooperatives & Community: A Wisconsin Tradition
Dan Smith, President & CEO, The Cooperative Network
Wyman Winston, Former Executive Director, WHEDA
Bill Kopka, VP & Community Accountability Officer, Associated Bank

From Poverty Wages to Family-sustaining Jobs
Harry Zell, General Vice President, IUPAT

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Local Voices, Global Vision
Thomas Duncan, Federal Appeals Director, Duncan Disability Law, S.C.
Kelly Ryan, President & CEO, Incourage
Katie Schumer, Outreach Case Manager/Coordinated Entry Specialist, North Central Community Action Program

How the Treasurer’s Office Can Service Wisconsin
Sarah Godlewski, Treasurer, State of Wisconsin

Thank you to our sponsors who helped make the 2019 Poverty Matters! Conference successful!

 
WISCAP Urges Passage of the Wisconsin Opportunity Act (LRB 0891)

WISCAP Urges Passage of the Wisconsin Opportunity Act (LRB 0891)

Contact: Kassidy Berens, Communications Manager, WISCAP
(608) 244-4422
[email protected]

For Immediate Release: June 24, 2019

WISCAP Urges Passage of the Wisconsin Opportunity Act

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) applauds the introduction of the Wisconsin Opportunity Act (LRB 0891), comprehensive legislation designed to aid communities in the fight against poverty. The proposal, authored by Senator LaTonya Johnson, calls for a renewed investment in housing, transportation, employment training, and other services tailored to the unique needs of local communities, urban, suburban and rural alike.

WISCAP sees this legislation as a necessary step to combat poverty statewide. The Institute for Research on Poverty reports that more than 1 in 10 Wisconsinites live in poverty, with the elderly representing the fastest growing segment of the population. In 2018, the Department of Public Instruction identified more than 19,000 homeless children and youth throughout the state. And, while unemployment remains low, housing costs have increased out of proportion to earnings. In fact, 306,000 low-income Wisconsin renters pay more than half their income for housing.

Community action agencies and their local partners throughout Wisconsin provide a wide range of programs and services that help individuals and families respond to crisis as well as achieve lasting economic security and self-sufficiency. If passed, this bill would help expand such outcomes. According to WISCAP Executive Director Brad Paul, “Whether we consider the impacts of lagging wages, rising housing costs, the opioid crisis, or the downturn in the farm economy, both metro and small-town Wisconsin continue to face significant challenges and stress, even as major economic indicators are largely healthy. This Act would help give local communities additional resources and the flexibility necessary to serve low-income households in a way that is appropriate and responsive to Wisconsin’s diverse needs.”

If you would like more information on the proposed legislation or to schedule an interview, please contact Gary Goyke, Legislative Consultant, (608) 219-5237.

A full toolkit of Wisconsin Opportunity Act related items can be accessed on this site under ‘Take Action’

 
UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty Releases 11th Annual Poverty Report

UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty Releases 11th Annual Poverty Report

Contact: Tim Smeeding, [email protected], (608) 890-1317
Release: 6/24/19

Wisconsin Poverty Rate Fell Overall and For Children, but Rose for Elderly

MADISON—The latest Wisconsin poverty analysis using a state-specific poverty measure devised by University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers found mixed results in our efforts to alleviate poverty and promote self-sufficiency in our state .

The statewide overall poverty rate using the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM) dropped from 10.8 percent in 2016 to 10.2 percent in 2017, a significant drop, but still above the 2015 rate of 9.7 percent. This suggests that progress against poverty in Wisconsin since 2010 has been limited and that we are treading water at this point.

Child poverty fell using the WPM, from 12.0 percent to 10.1 percent during the same time period, but elder poverty rose from 9.0 percent to 9.5 percent.

These findings were released today in the Eleventh Annual Wisconsin Poverty Report by Timothy Smeeding, Lee Rainwater Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the La Follette School of Public Affairs and Affiliate and former Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), in collaboration with IRP Senior Programmer Analyst Katherine Thornton.

Smeeding notes, “These findings suggest that the economy is not benefiting workers and families evenly across our state. I’ve been conducting this study for 11 years now and I have to say, after more than eight years of nationwide recovery from the end of the Great Recession through 2017, we should see better poverty outcomes.”

The WPM results suggest that the drop in child poverty is due to higher earnings by poor parents, despite real wages that are lower now than in 2010. The drop also reflects the broader range of tax credits and benefits for families with children; and the fact that the WPM counts the income of unmarried partners as contributing to family resources. The increase in elder poverty is in large part due to increasing out-of-pocket medical expenses, considered in the WPM but not the official poverty measure. Insurance premiums, copayments for medical services, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and uninsured medical costs are expenses that present a significant financial challenge for the low-income elderly.

As explained in the report and shown in the table below, the comparison between the two measures provides evidence that public programs such as SNAP food assistance significantly reduce economic disadvantage for many Wisconsin families with children.

Contact: Tim Smeeding, [email protected], (608) 890-1317
Release: 6/24/19

Wisconsin Poverty Rate Fell Overall and For Children, but Rose for Elderly

MADISON—The latest Wisconsin poverty analysis using a state-specific poverty measure devised by University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers found mixed results in our efforts to alleviate poverty and promote self-sufficiency in our state .

The statewide overall poverty rate using the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM) dropped from 10.8 percent in 2016 to 10.2 percent in 2017, a significant drop, but still above the 2015 rate of 9.7 percent. This suggests that progress against poverty in Wisconsin since 2010 has been limited and that we are treading water at this point.

Child poverty fell using the WPM, from 12.0 percent to 10.1 percent during the same time period, but elder poverty rose from 9.0 percent to 9.5 percent.

These findings were released today in the Eleventh Annual Wisconsin Poverty Report by Timothy Smeeding, Lee Rainwater Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the La Follette School of Public Affairs and Affiliate and former Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), in collaboration with IRP Senior Programmer Analyst Katherine Thornton.

Smeeding notes, “These findings suggest that the economy is not benefiting workers and families evenly across our state. I’ve been conducting this study for 11 years now and I have to say, after more than eight years of nationwide recovery from the end of the Great Recession through 2017, we should see better poverty outcomes.”

The WPM results suggest that the drop in child poverty is due to higher earnings by poor parents, despite real wages that are lower now than in 2010. The drop also reflects the broader range of tax credits and benefits for families with children; and the fact that the WPM counts the income of unmarried partners as contributing to family resources. The increase in elder poverty is in large part due to increasing out-of-pocket medical expenses, considered in the WPM but not the official poverty measure. Insurance premiums, copayments for medical services, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and uninsured medical costs are expenses that present a significant financial challenge for the low-income elderly.

As explained in the report and shown in the table below, the comparison between the two measures provides evidence that public programs such as SNAP food assistance significantly reduce economic disadvantage for many Wisconsin families with children.

The report suggests that if we are to make progress against poverty for the non-elderly, work alone at today’s wages is not enough. Greater work supports and income supports are also needed. We need to maintain and improve the safety net, reduce childcare costs, and raise Wisconsin’s minimum wage to more than $10 per hour if we are to break out of the poverty rut we are in and share the benefits of the recovery more widely with the most disadvantaged among us.

Brad Paul, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP), which supports the Wisconsin Poverty Report, commented, “WISCAP is proud to support the Wisconsin Poverty Project, which shares University of Wisconsin expertise in this important way so we can all have an accurate accounting of poverty among Wisconsinites—and therefore be better equipped to fight it.”

IRP Director Lawrence Berger notes, “I am pleased that the annual Wisconsin Poverty Project has its home at IRP. This year, we learn that the state’s economic expansion has had little effect on the poverty rate as a rising cost of living, especially childcare and medical expenses, and falling real wages are leaving many low-income families treading water and low-income elders losing ground, both of which are concerning.”

 

 
2019 WISCAP Annual Awards

2019 WISCAP Annual Awards

May 23, 2019 

The 2019 WISCAP Annual Luncheon & Awards was held today, May 23, 2019 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI. WISCAP presented these awards on behalf of its network of sixteen Community Action Agencies, the Foundation for Rural Housing and UMOS so as to recognize individuals or organizations who have gone above and beyond in helping to improve and further the goals of Community Action in Wisconsin in fighting poverty. To celebrate Community Action Month, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, Caleb Frostman read Governor Tony Evers’ proclamation declaring May 2019 as Community Action Month. Also in attendance was the Secretary of the Department of Children & Families, Emilie Amundson who presented the 22nd Annual Governor’s Excellence in Community Action Award.

Outstanding Advocate Award

The Outstanding Advocate Award was established as a tribute to Jackie Lawrence, former WISCAP Executive Director, in recognition of someone who has either demonstrated remarkable achievement articulating the needs and concerns of the poor or exemplary leadership advancing the causes and principals of community action and service to low-income families. This years recipient was Tom Mayne the Energy Services Director for Couleecap. Tom was nominated by Hetti Brown, Executive Director of Couleecap, for his drive in communicating the needs of his local community to policy makers, community stakeholders, fellow staff and the public.

Outstanding Friend of Community Action Award

The Outstanding Friend of Community Action Award recognizes an individual or group outside of the CAA Network, whose actions have promoted or enhanced the efforts and services of community action. This year’s recipient was Caroline Gregerson, Community Development Administrator for the city of La Crosse. Caroline was nominated by Hetti Brown for the ongoing support that she has shown community action. She is a key leader in many initiatives that Couleecap is a part of and offers key connections to new program opportunities and events. Read more about how Caroline Gregerson has advanced the work of community action in the nomination below.

Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award

The Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award was established as a tribute to Richard Strand, former Executive Director of Southwest CAP and long-time member of the WISCAP Board, in recognition of a Community Action employee who has demonstrated the hard-work that embodies the spirit of Community Action. Jim was nominated by Nicole Harrison, Vice President of Human Development and Phong Vang, Hmong UPLIFT Coordinator, of CAP Services. He won this award for his work with the Hmong community in Portage County over the last 40 years. To read more about Jim’s outstanding efforts and achievements, read his nomination below.

Self-Sufficiency Award

The Self-Sufficiency Award recognizes an individual who, with the aid of their local Community Action Agency, has overcome poverty and achieved self-sufficiency. Arletta Re’nea Allen was the recipient of this award and she was nominated by Lu Scheer, Affordable Housing Director, and Kathy Doyle, Director of Business Development of ADVOCAP. Arletta has been a client in multiple programs at ADVOCAP throughout the last 18 years. ADVOCAP assisted in Arletta’s journey from homelessness to homeownership, and in developing her small business. To read Arletta’s moving story, read her nomination below.

WISCAP President’s Award

The WISCAP’s President’s Award is given at the WISCAP Board President’s discretion to acknowledge an exceptional person or group for their contributions to the work of community action. This year, WISCAP Board President, Wally Orzechowski, appointed Chuck Spargo as the recipient. Chuck was a board member for the Foundation for Rural Housing for 16 years. In that time he assisted FRH in everything from raising unrestricted dollars to working the phones during a change in leadership. To read more about Chuck’s efforts and his embodiment of the mission of community action, see his story below.

William Steiger Human Services Award

The William Steiger Human Services Award is given in recognition of a legislator (Republican) for outstanding support of Community Action and low-income families. This year’s recipient was Representative Mike Rohrkaste, nominated by Mike Bonertz, Executive Director of ADVOCAP.

State Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) has emerged as a leading voice in the state’s workforce development initiatives. He has taken the lead on efforts to secure greater support for the Community Action Skills Enhancement Program and authored legislation aimed at assisting businesses in developing internship program and “upskilling” or “micro-credentialing” training. He has also proven to be an important voice in the bi-partisan effort to fight homelessness in Wisconsin, co-sponsoring and promoting a series of eight bills known as “A Hand for the Homeless” initiative.

Representative Rohrkaste is currently in his third term as Representative of the 55th Assembly District. In his first term, he was Chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, as well as Vice Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health. He worked on several healthcare-related bills, including the 10-bill Alzheimer’s and Dementia package that passed the State Assembly. Beginning in his second term, he has served on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which works on the state’s biennial budget and reviews other appropriations requests, including the funding of Skills Enhancement and other programs critical to the work of Community Action Agencies.

Gaylord Nelson Human Services Award

The Gaylord Nelson Human Services Award recognizes a legislator (Democrat) for outstanding support of Community Action and low-income families. This year’s recipient is Senator LaTonya Johnson, who was nominated by George Hinton, CEO Of Social Development Commission.

As a child care provider, a member of the State Assembly, and current State Senator, LaTonya Johnson has demonstrated a strong commitment to the fight against poverty in Wisconsin. Representing the 6th District, which includes WISCAP member agency, the Social Development Commission, Senator Johnson is a forceful advocate for workers and working families, having served as Executive Board member for AFSCME District Council 48, President of AFSCME Local 502, and Chair of AFSCME’s Women Committee.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, the Senate Committee on Education, and the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Senator Johnson has championed the issues of paid sick leave and child care, and has worked with WISCAP to develop soon-to-be-introduced comprehensive anti-poverty legislation, the Wisconsin Opportunity Act.

 
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