March 13, 2015

Perpetuating poverty

Guest column: Perpetuating poverty 

Russ Spain   
PUBLICATION: Post Register (Idaho Falls, ID)

SECTION: Opinions
DATE: March 13, 2015


Through their inaction, Idaho’s governor and Legislature continue to show they have no desire to help the state’s most vulnerable citizens, writesRuss Spain.
By Russ Spain

 

This past year, I retired as the executive director of Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership. EICAP is the lead organization in the community dedicated to helping those in poverty better themselves and to involve the community in reducing poverty.

 

I still support the mission of the organization. As a state, Idaho is not the best example in helping to reduce poverty. That fact has been a recent topic in the Post Register and other local media. It is my opinion that the governor and Idaho’s legislators could care less about Idaho’s poor.

 

Let me give you three examples:

 

• Failure to consider Medicaid Expansion for 78,000 low-income Idahoans. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and the Legislature so far have ignored the recommendation of the governor’s own task force, which said implementation of some form of Medicaid expansion would be best for all of Idaho’s citizens.

 

Senate President Brent Hill’s statement in the Jan. 25 Post Register (“We’ve gone 100 years without covering these people with Medicaid”) shows little or no respect for Idaho’s low-income citizens. Not having health insurance for the past 100 years doesn’t mean “These people” need to go another day without it. To give the governor and Legislature a bit of credit, they did pass Idaho’s own health exchange and that is working well.

 

• Failure to consider an increase in the minimum wage is perpetuating poverty. When you have individuals who are working two and three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and feed and clothe a family, we all should be ashamed. It is disturbing there are families where school-age children work and contribute part or all of their wages to the family income as a matter of necessity.

 

Thinking outside the box and increasing the minimum wage would ease the burden on many Idahoans.

 

• Failure of the Legislature to regulate pay-day/title loan lenders is keeping some Idahoans in poverty. The current onslaught of check n’ loans, title loans and payday loan businesses in Idaho is a dirge on our society.

 

Idaho is one of the few remaining states in the west that does not regulate these “businesses.” Charging 300 percent, 400 percent, 500 percent or more interest and fees on a loan is one step above the outdated tactics of a Chicago style gangster. Most states have regulations that have capped the interest and fees they are allowed to charge at 36 percent. Many have gone out of business as a result, but weeding out the seedy ones is not a bad thing.

 

I am not saying there isn’t a need for such businesses, but let’s regulate them and cap their ability to keep Idahoans in poverty. I am sure many businesses in Idaho would love to make a 36 percent profit.

 

Those in poverty do not have a voice in Idaho, do not contribute to campaigns and, unfortunately, have a poor record of participating at the ballot box.

 

Our leaders at the local, state and federal level understand that and take advantage. Those in charge need to wake up and realize that Idaho always being at or near the bottom of every statistical measure in the nation is not a good thing for our citizens.

 

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Spain recently retired from his position as executive director of Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, a group that works to reduce poverty.

Community Action Agencies were established to fight the War on Poverty in 1964. Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, located at 935 E Lincoln Rd in Idaho Falls serves the nine eastern Idaho counties with services to help low-income individuals become independent and self-sufficient. EICAP is one of over 1,000 Community Action Agencies in the United States that provide services to every county in the nation.