Poverty must not be ignored

With election season in full swing, many of the deep and lingering problems that have had inadequate focus in the last four years should take center stage during the New York City mayoral debates.

One of the most critical issues is the rate of poverty and the widening income gap between the rich and the poor.

Data from the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) paint a bleak picture for the next administration.

The CEO reports that in 2011, the rate of poverty in the city -21.3%- was significantly higher than the national average, 16.1%.

Single-parent families make up 30% of the city’s low-income families. The severe poverty that envelops the city also includes youths under 18 and people over 65.

The center’s data show that “minorities” have been the most affected in the past five years. In 2011, 25.3% of the city’s Latinos were living below the poverty line. This number has been increasing, while salaries and the social safety net are decreasing.

The poverty rate for naturalized citizens and undocumented immigrants also surpassed that of native citizens by a large percentage.

To compoud this situation, the groups that are most affected and vulnerable are the same ones who have been hit by cuts in social services that would usually help these communities stay afloat. Some of these budget cuts take an axe to housing subsidies, food stamps, after-school programs and services for the elderly.

Candidates who are making the rounds in New York City neighborhoods and calling for voter support must keep in mind that the next mayor has a tough road ahead because of steep local, state and federal cuts.

With the focus in recent years on the middle class and the avoidance of championing the poor, the public and advocates must step up pressure to make sure that the hardest hit families are a part of the conversation and concrete planning for New York City’s future.