City of Dallas and community leaders gathered Tuesday to talk about everything from child poverty to living wage jobs. Experts say getting a grip on the problem is the first step to solving it.
Access to healthcare, struggling schools, child poverty and income inequality: They’re all issues plaguing North Texas. Issues the Dallas Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty hopes to take on. Mayor Mike Rawlings delivered opening remarks and Regina Montoya is task force chairperson.
“This is a city for all of us, and no matter the zip code, no matter the neighborhood, every child should have an opportunity to live to his or her fullest potential," she says.
Which is something the Task Force is worried about. More than 90 percent of students in Dallas ISD now qualify for free or reduced lunch. And Montoya says the child poverty rate in Dallas is 38 percent, the highest of any city with more than a million people.
“We even saw a bit of an increase last year, when other cities are actually seeing decreases in child poverty," Montoya says.
A Living Wage For All
Another major concern? Jobs and wages.
“A number of the people who are living in poverty are the working poor, they have two jobs, they have three jobs," Montoya says. "They’re at minimum wage, often without benefits, and they are just surviving.”
Getting workers to a living wage is why Ann Beeson was at Tuesday’s meeting. She’s a Dallas native and executive director of Austin-based nonprofit the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
“One of the major drivers of growing poverty and inequality in Dallas is the fact that the minimum wage is so low and unfortunately doesn’t provide a living wage for many, many workers in Dallas and beyond," Beeson says.
Texas pays the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour. Beeson says that doesn’t come close to what you need to survive in Dallas.
“If you’re single you actually need to make $13.84 an hour. If you are a single parent and have one child, you actually need to make $20.83," she says.
How Much Do You Need?
The Task Force will now break into committees and continue to meet. Regina Montoya says members also plan to commission a study that shows that poverty is bad for business, and the community.
“If our tax base keeps eroding, get used to those streets that aren’t fixed, get used to those potholes," Montoya says. We have to have a vibrant economy to ensure the success of the rest of Dallas.”
A tall order, but one the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty is trying to fill.