State Sen. Kathy Campbell vows to introduce Medicaid expansion bill in 2014

State Sen. Kathy Campbell

LINCOLN — Nebraska needs to pursue a “two-generation” approach to help break the cycle of poverty, according to a new legislative report.

State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln said the state has focused on programs for adults and on programs for children but rarely on programs that tie the two together.

Programming that addresses the needs of both is needed to interrupt generations of poverty, because children can’t thrive in homes where parents struggle financially, and parents can’t succeed if their children aren’t doing well, Campbell said.

“We’re above the national average in terms of the percentage of people in poverty, which should be a red flag to policymakers that we need to address this in an in-depth manner,” she said.

The report, released Thursday, was written by Elice Hubbert, Health and Human Services Committee clerk, and was the result of a 15-month study by the Intergenerational Poverty Task Force.

The task force, established under a bill by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello in 2015, was charged with examining and reporting on the status and effectiveness of programs addressing those affected by poverty over decades, particularly children.

The task force is made up of an executive committee of lawmakers as well as leaders from key state agencies and advocacy groups, including the Center for People in Need, Community Action of Nebraska and Legal Aid of Nebraska.

Mello modeled the effort after similar steps taken in Colorado and Utah. He said it aims to help low-income working people.

About 18 percent of Nebraska families with children under the age of 5 were in poverty last year, U.S. Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey show.

That number grew to about 38 percent when considering households headed by a single woman. And African-American and Hispanic families in Nebraska had higher rates of poverty — each about 25 percent — than similar families nationwide.

Mello called the report the most intense analysis of poverty in Nebraska in modern time. It includes a list of recommendations to help decrease poverty in the state. They are:

» Develop a data system to track generational poverty, and support policy and program development.

» Continue the Intergenerational Poverty Task Force, which is set to expire at the end of the year but could continue if the Legislature acted next year.

» Increase collaboration between state agencies to provide more effective resources.

» Use a two-generation approach when designing programs to improve the lives of children and families.

All are in an effort to address the “most daunting” problems faced by low-income people, according to the report. They include ensuring that parents have access to good jobs and the skills to get and keep them, financial stability and the ability to acquire assets, and high-quality early childhood education.

The two-generation approach isn’t new. An early example is the federal Head Start program, launched in 1965, which is intended to prepare children for school while assessing family needs and making referrals.

Mello said a comprehensive data system would help the state be more outcomes-based going forward.

“You can’t make informed decisions and you can’t reform programs to make them more comprehensive and more evidence-based without having the data,” he said.

Mello and Campbell, both of whom are outgoing senators, said the recommendations don’t necessarily call for creating new programs, but urge lawmakers to more effectively use existing ones. One such Nebraska program is the Step Up to Quality ranking system, which was sponsored by Campbell and passed in 2013.

emily.nohr@owh.com, 402-473-9581

LINCOLN — Nebraska needs to pursue a “two-generation” approach to help break the cycle of poverty, according to a new legislative report.State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln said the state has focused on programs for adults and on programs for children but rarely on programs that tie the two together.Programming that addresses the needs of both is needed to interrupt generations of poverty, because children can’t thrive in homes where parents struggle financially, and parents can’t succeed if their children aren’t doing well, Campbell said.“We’re above the national average in terms of the percentage of people in poverty, which should be a red flag to policymakers that we need to address this in an in-depth manner,” she said.The report, released Thursday, was written by Elice Hubbert, Health and Human Services Committee clerk, and was the result of a 15-month study by the Intergenerational Poverty Task Force.The task force, established under a bill by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello in 2015, was charged with examining and reporting on the status and effectiveness of programs addressing those affected by poverty over decades, particularly children.The task force is made up of an executive committee of lawmakers as well as leaders from key state agencies and advocacy groups, including the Center for People in Need, Community Action of Nebraska and Legal Aid of Nebraska.Mello modeled the effort after similar steps taken in Colorado and Utah. He said it aims to help low-income working people.About 18 percent of Nebraska families with children under the age of 5 were in poverty last year, U.S. Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey show.That number grew to about 38 percent when considering households headed by a single woman. And African-American and Hispanic families in Nebraska had higher rates of poverty — each about 25 percent — than similar families nationwide.Mello called the report the most intense analysis of poverty in Nebraska in modern time. It includes a list of recommendations to help decrease poverty in the state. They are:» Develop a data system to track generational poverty, and support policy and program development.» Continue the Intergenerational Poverty Task Force, which is set to expire at the end of the year but could continue if the Legislature acted next year.» Increase collaboration between state agencies to provide more effective resources.» Use a two-generation approach when designing programs to improve the lives of children and families.All are in an effort to address the “most daunting” problems faced by low-income people, according to the report. They include ensuring that parents have access to good jobs and the skills to get and keep them, financial stability and the ability to acquire assets, and high-quality early childhood education.The two-generation approach isn’t new. An early example is the federal Head Start program, launched in 1965, which is intended to prepare children for school while assessing family needs and making referrals.Mello said a comprehensive data system would help the state be more outcomes-based going forward.“You can’t make informed decisions and you can’t reform programs to make them more comprehensive and more evidence-based without having the data,” he said.Mello and Campbell, both of whom are outgoing senators, said the recommendations don’t necessarily call for creating new programs, but urge lawmakers to more effectively use existing ones. One such Nebraska program is the Step Up to Quality ranking system, which was sponsored by Campbell and passed in 2013.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.