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State Assembly holds second upstate hearing on poverty

Doug Kerr

Almost a quarter of New York children live in poverty, and in the city of Binghamton, that figure is near 50 percent. State legislators and community leaders gathered in Binghamton Tuesday to discuss the problem.

Assemblymembers Donna Lupardo (D-Binghamton) and Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) said some current laws hinder services for low-income people. Joe Sellepack of the Broome County Council of Churches says one of those laws affects people who recently left prison. Inmates can’t apply for social services. So when they’re released, there’s often a gap before they start getting help.

“They end up having a big recidivism issue that’s really preventable,” Sellepack says. “If that gap weren’t there, we would be able to help people a lot more smoothly than what we’re currently doing.”

The United Way of Broome County received a $100,000 grant earlier this year to fight poverty in the area. They will use the money to gather neighborhood-level data on poverty and plan programs.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Mary Kay Frys says many of her district’s parents can’t make ends meet.

“Food is always an issue,” she says. “There is never enough. Staff in all our buildings keep food in their rooms to feed students and send food home with them. Coaches often feed students before practices and games.”

The United Way plans to build on a similar campaign started in Rochester earlier this year. That city’s child poverty levels are also around 50 percent. The state also funded an anti-poverty task force for Rochester earlier this year.

Solvejg Wastvedt grew up in western Pennsylvania and graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Over the summer, she served in Los Angeles as an intern on NPR's National Desk. Plus, before coming to Upstate New York, Solvejg worked at the Minneapolis community radio station KFAI. When she isn't reporting the news, Solvejg enjoys running and exploring hiking trails.