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HomeNewsArchivesTerritory Gets Grant to Hold Poverty Summit in Spring

Territory Gets Grant to Hold Poverty Summit in Spring

Sept. 24, 2008 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. will host a summit on poverty and economic opportunity in the Virgin Islands this spring, with an eye toward crafting a comprehensive plan or set of recommendations.
The Office of the Governor applied for and was selected as one of 10 states or territories to receive a $12,000 grant from the National Governor's Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices to hold the summit. The NGA Center will provide customized technical assistance before, during and after the summits.
The NGA Center describes itself as the only research and development firm that directly serves the nation's governors. It helps governors and their advisors learn what works, what doesn't and what lessons can be learned from other states grappling with similar challenges, according to its mission statement.
The Virgin Islands is one of 10 states and territories that received the grant and will hold similar — but locally focused — summits. The NGA Center describes the summits as aiming to galvanize state and local leadership to advance a comprehensive policy agenda to reduce poverty among children and families.
The NGA Center announced the grant awards Wednesday and deJongh sent out a statement later that day.
"It is the first grant that the NGA has awarded the Virgin Islands," deJongh said in a Government House news release issued Wednesday afternoon.
The NGA Center created this particular program because of a growing national concern about rising levels of childhood poverty. DeJongh believes the program and its practical, solution-oriented approach can be useful to the territory.
"While there are undoubtedly other contributing factors, the combination of low per-capita income and very high cost of living in the U.S. Virgin Islands play a significant role in the considerable number of families with children existing below the federal poverty threshold," deJongh said. "Living in poverty can hinder cognitive development, as well as contribute to poor social, emotional and behavioral outcomes for children. Children who grow up poor are likely to earn less as adults, complete fewer years of formal education and face significant health issues. These trends, coupled with high rates of families living without health insurance and facing food and housing insecurities, were all factors which prompted fellow state leaders to examine how to alleviate poverty and support family economic success."
Although poverty impacts every state, deJongh said, he believes "poverty takes an even greater toll on the resources of the Virgin Islands, in which we find the child poverty rate to be almost twice as high as the rest of the nation."
DeJongh will address the summit and share the vision of a community where the basic necessities of life are adequately provided to all children, he said. There will be a round-table forum bringing together policy makers and technical experts to discuss priorities and potential policy actions.
"I hope to use the summit on poverty to enhance and expand recommendations for our community leaders regarding successful poverty-reducing measures," deJongh said.
The grant was applied for through the Children and Families Council, a public-private inter-agency council, formed earlier this year by the governor to ensure that early-childhood programs and services are better integrated and coordinated and generally improve children's services. The 12-person council is chaired by first lady Cecile deJongh.
During the summit the council plans to launch a broader mission of ending the cycle of poverty among families with young children in the territory within the next 20 years.
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