2021 Poverty Matters Conference

The 2021 Poverty Matters Conference will be held September 8-9, 2021. WISCAP has made the decision to transition the conference to a virtual platform given the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 Delta Variant. 

Virtual Venue
WISCAP uses a virtual venue software called ePly. With your registration payment, you will be able to set up a username and password to log into our venue and access all sessions from the same place. You will also be able to see our virtual exhibit hall! We  have a "Plan B" option available for those who don't want to, or can't, access the virtual venue. The inconvenient part about "Plan B" is that we will send you all associated Zoom links, but you will have to sign up for each individual session. 

You will receive a confirmation email that your registration is received immediately. Please note, you will not be able to access the virtual venue until a week before the conference. You can expect instructions regarding the virtual venue on September 1st.

The registration fee is $125. This will allow you to attend for the full 2-days, as well as access recordings for 30 days post-conference! Follow the button below to fill out the registration form. You can either pay by credit card or request an invoice to pay by check. Problems registering? Email us or call us at (608) 244-4422

Register Now


There are scholarships available to individuals and/or organizations who would find it difficult to pay the $125 registration fee per person.  

Annual Income Limits
Family Size Annual Income
1 $19,320
2 $26,130
3 $32,940
4 $39,750
5 $46,560
6 $53,370


To qualify based on personal financial need:
• Your annual income must be at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines (refer to the table below)
To qualify based on organizational financial need:

• Organization must have an operating budget of less than $200,000 or a program budget of less than $50,000
• Must send a copy of organization’s operating or program budget and a signed statement by your supervisor indicating your organization is unable to pay the registration cost.

To apply for a scholarship, fill out this form and email it to Kassidy Farrey at [email protected] by September 2, 2021.


Swag Bags
The first 300 registrations for the conference will receive a Poverty Matters Conference swag bag - just like you would in-person! Please ensure you fill out the shipping address accurately on the registration form for all attendees -- fill it out even if it is the same as the billing address. 



T-shirts & Sweatshirts
WISCAP will be selling T-shirts and sweatshirts from August 30-September 10! You can buy a 2021 Poverty Matters Conference shirt, WISCAP shirt, and/or a WISCAP sweatshirt. Items will all ship after the conference and go right to your door. We receive a portion of all sales - so please consider supporting us! Designs and ordering link will be sent the week before the conference. 

Order Now

 Schedule Overview

Day 1
9:00 to 10:00am Breakfast Plenary
10:10 to 11:10am Workshop Session #1
11:20am to 12:20pm Workshop Session #2
12:40 to 1:40pm Lunch Plenary
1:50 to 2:50pm Workshop Session #3
3:00 to 4:00pm Workshop Session #4
Day 2
9:00 to 10:00am Breakfast Plenary
10:10 to 11:10am Workshop Session #5
11:20am to 12:20pm Workshop Session #6
12:40 to 1:40pm Lunch Plenary

Session Descriptions 

Day 1- September 8, 2021

Breakfast Plenary
9:00 to 10:00am


  • Angela Trudell Vasquez, Madison Poet Laureate
  • Emilie Amundson, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Children & Families


Workshop Session #1 
10:10 to 11:10am

  1. Food For Today: An Interactive Poverty Simulation: Food for Today is a 30-minute, interactive hunger simulation that reproduces the challenges that confront low-income individuals and families struggling to feed themselves and their families. During this facilitated role play, program participants assume the roles of a cross section of community residents, some middle-class, others struggling with extreme needs and poverty. The community resident roles in the simulation are of differing ages, family size and marital and immigration status.

  2. How Anti-Voters Bills Disenfranchise Poor Communities: This workshop will draw attention to the barriers that anti-voter bills erect to exercise of the freedom to vote, and how those barriers disproportionately affect poor communities. 

  3. The Workforce behind the Workforce: Opportunities for Communities and Businesses to Partner with Child Care: 

    The pandemic has been cause for reflection on what is truly essential, and it has become absolutely clear that quality child care is essential to Wisconsin’s workforce. Families, communities, businesses and child care providers have all had to make hard decisions in order to survive. As we reflect on what we’ve learned from this tragedy, communities are more receptive than ever to ensuring that child care is a top priority and that child care providers are supported—with encouragement, supplies, fair wages and benefits. However, the business model for child care is broken. Participants in this session will explore ways to bring together all sectors of government and society to build effective, customizable community-based solutions to these challenges, and potentially apply for funding to support their collaboration. The Department of Children and Families is applying government relief and Preschool Development Grant funds to:
    • Facilitate businesses’ sustainable investment in existing local child care as a support to their employees
    and assurance that needed child care remains available, and
    • Accelerate innovative start-up activities in communities where early childhood services are not adequate at this time.

    Join us to learn more and offer your ideas about how child care can be part of innovative initiatives to invigorate communities, and even work with unusual allies like transportation, health care, and housing to address the needs of every Wisconsin family and the workforce at large.

Workshop Session #2
11:20am to 12:20pm

  1. COVID-19 vaccine Q&A (by Dear Pandemic): Dear Pandemic will cover basics of COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness followed by specific vaccine myths and facts. 

  2. Lead Free Kids for a Healthy Future: Overview of childhood lead poisoning in Wisconsin and strategies to prevent and respond to lead poisoning. Data and information will be shared on the scope of the problem, public health impact, and resources available to take action. Specifically, the audience will learn more about the Lead Safe Homes Program, which is designed to eliminate lead hazards in older homes where low-income children live or frequent. Other prevention and intervention strategies will be touched on, such as blood lead testing and lead hazard risk assessments. 

  3. Eviction Defense - Stabilizing Housing for Low Income Tenants: This presentation will describe the impact and procedure of Legal Action of Wisconsin's Eviction Defense Project. It will also touch more broadly on the importance of a Right to Counsel in eviction actions. Participants can expect to leave the presentation with an understanding of eviction procedures in Wisconsin and how the Eviction Defense Project seeks to remedy and prevent the negative impacts of eviction. Further, participants will learn how providing legal representation to renters facing eviction actions can help with housing stabilization. The presentation will discuss the personal and practical impacts of eviction and describe how providing counsel in eviction actions can intercept the cyclical nature of poverty.


Lunch Plenary
12:40 to 1:40pm

  • Take Root Wisconsin
  • Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin State Treasurer


Workshop Session #3
1:50 to 2:50pm

  1. Resilient Wisconsin: Building a healthier, more resilient Wisconsin is going to take all of us. This presentation will provide an overview of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, resiliency, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Resilient Wisconsin initiatives.

  2. Fighting Poverty in Wisconsin through AmeriCorps Service: This training session's primary focus is to provide an overview of AmeriCorps and national service, including how non-profit organizations, local and state government, and CAP agencies are currently using AmeriCorps members to address poverty through programming focused on education, health, economic opportunity, housing and homelessness, food security, and capacity building.

  3. Early Childhood - A Complex Industry: Early care and education is a complex industry. Child care not only provides critical support as our youngest learners grow and develop, child care also provides critical support to our economy in a family’s ability to go to work and school.  Join us to review current data and engage in a discussion around labor gap shortages, wages, rates, and what is needed to move forward.

Workshop Session #4
3:00 to 4:00pm

  1. Toxic Stress of Homelessness: Unraveling the Impact from Infancy Throughout the Lifespan: Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are often invisible to us, even though we may encounter them every day. The rate of homelessness is on a steady rise and its impact hits all ages of the lifespan. The life expectancy of an individual experiencing homeless is 44, compared to 77 yr of age for the remainder of the populations. Participants in this interactive workshop will gain an understanding of the toxic stress of homelessness and how it affects the individual's physical, emotional and mental health and how that stress may manifest itself through the various stages of life. 

  2. The Lessons of the New Hope Project for Today : 

    The New Hope Project was designed to test a package of policies that would help individuals get out of poverty through access to jobs, earnings supplements and affordable health care and child care. It ran in the 1990s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was rigorously evaluated.

    There were positive impacts on economic measures that were very strong while the policies were in place. Some of the economic factors faded over time, though some continued. In addition to the economic measures, researchers designed an evaluation that looked at the impact of The New Hope Project on the families in the project who had children at the time they enrolled. They followed this cohort for a total of eight years, and found some very important positive impacts on the wellbeing of the children, including improved school achievement.

    These findings were part of a thorough and complex set of reports. While they contributed to some policy improvements in Wisconsin and other states, and helped confirm some federal policy actions, they did not achieve the full impact that New Hope’s proponents wanted. Now, thirty + years later, some of the original advocates and a newer generation of advocates are coming together to share the lessons of The New Hope Project, with an aim of helping today’s policymakers understand their importance and relevance to our current debates.

  3. Partnerships to Advance Tribal Food Sovereignty and Nutrition Security: 
    Join us for a discussion of Tribal Sovereignty, nutrition security, and food equity. Tribal Nation and Feeding Wisconsin partners will share program and policy updates to improve food security Tribal members and at the same time strengthen community resiliency and sovereignty. Partners will have a panel discussion and then provide time for participant discussion and shared learning.

Day 2- September 9, 2021

 Breakfast Plenary
9:00 to 10:00am 

  • Joel Brennan, Secretary of the Department of Administration 

 Workshop Session #5
10:10 to 11:10am

  1. Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance: What is it? How did we build the program? What are our impacts in preventing eviction? Join Andy Heidt, WISCAP Program Manager for Housing Policy and Programs for an interactive discussion on the WERA program. A variety of CAA staff, partners, and State administrators will discuss the programs evolution, impact and outcomes. This will be an interactive presentation with your participation, questions and ideas encouraged!

  2. The WEESSN Story Continues: Shared Services Growth, Expansion, and New Services for the Early Childhood Sector: You’ve been watching the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN) grow – come hear the latest on this award-winning model’s new expansion, set to serve approximately 75% of child care programs in Wisconsin. Hear about the new innovations we’ve developed to support the early childhood workforce, what’s to come, and how our Shared Services work continues to help keep child care doors open. We all know communities work better when child care thrives. 

  3. The COVID FOOD CLIFF: how real is it and what you can do about it. Many programs were created during the pandemic to help people experiencing food insecurity, from Pandemic EBT to Emergency FoodShare allotments. As programs sunset or change, how will this impact your community? This program will discuss the COVID food cliff and discuss immediate steps you can take to help others in your community. 

Workshop Session #6
11:20am to 12:20pm

  1. The Economics of Perpetual Poverty: In pre-COVID 2018 - 19, the economy was booming, unemployment was as low as economists thought possible, wages were rising, and the Federal Poverty Level was low and creeping down.  And yet, the United Way A.L.I.C.E. and Urban League studies of real lived economic experience in America showed that about 40% of the population were living in households that could not afford a survival budget without public assistance.  Then COVID made things worse.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Everything. This session will describe and explain a number of important aspects of the continuation of real poverty in the US that persist even when the economy is booming.  It also addresses the great inaccuracy of the Federal Poverty Level standard, and why the popular narrative on poverty creates frustration, confusion, resentment and how it contributes to the growing political divide in America. And it offers some suggestions on how these false narratives can be corrected.

  2. Making the New Child Tax Credit Work for Everyone: This workshop would go over the features of the new (July 15th) refundable monthly child tax credit and advocates and others experiences with enrolling hard to reach families such as immigrant children born in the USA, kids living with grandparents, and others who need assistance in obtaining the benefit. Tim Smeeding will offer an opening presentation on how the credit is working and how it is designed to impact families. Up to three additional advocates from WISCAP, United Way, UW extension , and others will tell of their experiences in helping families get these benefits to date.

  3. Project Recovery vs. COVID-19: Jane Gaffney, Project Director for Project Recovery will discuss the outcomes of the year long program and how it relates to local community action programs. Jane will cover the accomplishments and struggles of this FEMA funded Crisis Counseling Program. She will discuss self-care, goal setting and resource development. Discussion about future programs will also take place.  

Closing Plenary
12:40 to 1:40

Healing Ourselves from 2020, Debra Lafler, Personal Wellness Development, LLC
The year of 2020 and into 2021 has been a whirlwind of both collective and personal trauma. Through this talk, we will honor all that we have been through, and discuss what we can do to heal. We will review how the nervous system responds to trauma, and what factors help us with our resilience. We will also dive into how trauma affects each of us differently based on our personal, family and cultural history; including ways we cope. To help us heal, we will introduce holistic perspectives; explore post-traumatic growth; and share an evidence-based 3-step model for self-care based on neuroscience. To end, we will present easy and practical strategies to integrate wellness into our days for ourselves and others.  

Closing piece by Angela Trudell Vasquez, Madison Poet Laureate

 Cancelation Policy: 

If you need to cancel your registration, you have until 7 days before the event to receive a full refund. If you cancel within the 7-day time frame, you will only receive a refund of 50% of the registration fee. 

*If you registered for the conference before we transitioned to a virtual platform, you will be contacted to see if you would prefer a full refund, or if you would like to be refunded the difference between the full 2-day in-person fee and the reduced virtual registration fee*

Hotel Room Bock
If you made a reservation at the Concourse Hotel for this event, the rooms will be automatically canceled on your behalf and you will receive an email notification.