Today, one in five of California’s children are living in poverty, amounting to nearly two million – more than any other state in the country. Almost one-third of African American children and one-third of Latino children in California live in poverty. And while our state’s unemployment rate has declined since the Great Recession, our child poverty rate has remained mostly stagnant. That’s a moral outrage.
Over the past decade, advances in cognitive research have shown that the stress that comes with growing up in poverty quite literally alters children’s brains, making it nearly impossible for them to focus on their schoolwork. It’s no surprise that study after study shows just how debilitating growing up in poverty is to a kid’s potential in life. It’s correlated with lower educational attainment, lower incomes, increased likelihood of homelessness and, devastatingly, increased likelihood of interacting with the criminal justice system. No kid should be denied a fair shot at success in life because of their parent’s income or the zip code in which they live, but for so many kids in this state, that is all too often the case. Gavin is making the elimination of child poverty the north star of a Newsom administration.
Gavin is proposing a two pronged strategy to ensure equal access to opportunity and prosperity for all of our children. First, we must do more to help young people and their families who are currently living in poverty. Second, those efforts must be part of a broader strategy to break the cycle of multi-generational poverty through education and creating real opportunities for economic advancement for every child.
Gavin understands that for children to succeed in school, they must have a strong start, regardless of their family’s income. This includes support for children’s development with expanded access to prenatal services, developmental screenings, and family nurse visits. As a father, Gavin believes that working parents should never be forced to choose between their job and their family. As Governor, he will expand family leave so that families have the flexibility they need to care for their children. And when parents do have to go to work, Gavin wants to ensure all families have access to affordable, high quality childcare. To ensure California’s children have the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten, he will provide access to universal preschool.
Gavin understands that we need to create a college-going culture beginning in elementary school. As Governor, he will launch college savings accounts for every incoming kindergartener, putting higher education within reach. This foundation will help families plan a bright future for their child.
Californians, regardless of their background, deserve the opportunity to achieve a successful and fulfilling career. As Governor, Gavin will focus on expanding access to higher education, as well as refocusing career technical education and workforce development programs. He will encourage businesses to become creators, not just consumers of talent by partnering with our community colleges and establishing 500,000 earn-and-learn apprenticeships by 2029, creating a new vocational education pipeline of high-skill workers.
As Governor, Gavin will expand our statewide Earned Income Tax Credit for very low-income earners — a program that rewards work and allows families to keep more of their hard-earned money.
California can, and must, dramatically increase CalWORKS grants, a life-changing program that provides financial and other assistance to families in need. Most very poor children live in homes with parents on welfare, but the grants those families receive have lost much of their purchasing power over the last 20 years. They’re not enough to pay for a decent apartment, let alone the other necessities like food and clothing, a kid needs to thrive. It’s also time to explore allowing welfare recipients to keep a greater portion of their grant aid.
Gavin understands that housing stability is key to helping families advance in their careers and children succeed in their education. To ensure Californians have access to affordable homes, Gavin will lead the effort to build 3.5 million new homes by 2025, and will strengthen both housing assistance programs and tenant protections. As Governor, he will establish a Secretary of Homelessness, helping ensure Californians facing homelessness receive the resources they need, including permanent supportive housing, as well as rapid re-housing for families. No child should be without a roof over their head.
Despite the ongoing debates in Washington, Gavin understands that healthcare is not a privilege – it’s a human right. As Governor, he will ensure California residents have universal access to healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay, pre-existing conditions, or immigration status. Gavin understands that by keeping Californians healthy, and free of debt from medical expenses, we allow families to not only succeed, but to thrive both personally and professionally.
Our state can’t fight this battle alone. Congress has dropped the ball and failed to follow through on their commitment to needy kids. The federal entitlement programs we rely on to help fund these priorities have not kept up with the cost of living — not even close. Federal block grant dollars haven’t been increased in 20 years. Washington needs to step up to the plate and invest far more in critical child care and employment training opportunities, whether that’s through TANF or another program. Even on the state level, we must invest more in helping kids who are growing up in poverty.
Many Californians transition between stages of life, be it from hospitals, the criminal justice system, or the child welfare system, without the support they need. Gavin understands we must provide these individuals with the tools to build stable lives. In fostering stability, we help these Californians reduce future interactions with the criminal justice system, reduce rates of recidivism, and end the cycle of homelessness. Through common sense steps like expanding access to the social safety net, providing institutions with the resources to teach financial literacy and credit counseling, training youth in independent living skills, and helping youth and families identify affordable housing, we will improve their outcomes and strengthen our state.