Del. Senate Republicans Unveil Plan to Reduce Poverty - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Senate Republicans Unveil Plan to Reduce Poverty

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Legislative Hall in Dover where Republican lawmakers have unveiled a proposal to combat poverty. (Photo: WBOC) Legislative Hall in Dover where Republican lawmakers have unveiled a proposal to combat poverty. (Photo: WBOC)

Note: Ryan Stanley and Evan Koslof both contributed to this report. 

DOVER, Del.- Senate Republicans have unveiled a plan that they say will reduce poverty in Delaware.

The brief materials provided to WBOC outline 11 different initiatives that some senators say will begin to combat the issue.

One of the initiatives that is likely to become controversial is the scholarship tax credit item. Under the plan, an individual or an organization receives a tax credit for donating to a nonprofit that funds scholarships for low-income students to attend private school, according to the plan.

Senate President Patricia Blevins said that would create a pick and choose process.

"That would ultimately be used to benefit private schools in particular," she said. "That? Lifting children out of poverty? I mean I think that money would be better spent in the public schools."

Terri Hodges, president of the Delaware PTA, told WBOC on Wednesday that the scholarship tax credit is just a voucher program in disguise.

Sen. Colin Bonini (D-Dover South) said that is something that just needs to be done.

"The bottom line here is we have folks who are in difficult, high priority school districts who are not getting the education they deserve," he said.

The overall plan does rely heavily on tax credits. From making the state earned income tax credit refundable to creating new tax credits for things like poverty housing, scholarships and apprenticeship.

That apprenticeship tax credit would go toward qualified businesses who hire and train someone living under the poverty level or who has recently been released from prison, according to the briefing. The plan suggests people are less likely to fall back into poverty if they have been taught a specific skills. 

Bonini said it is about incentivizing people and businesses and finding ways to end poverty through empowering the people of Delaware.

That poverty housing tax credit would be available to anyone who contributes to neighborhood organizations to benefit people living in impoverished areas or low income families, according to the briefing.

There is already opposition from the state Democratic Party. The party's state chairman issued a statement Wednesday saying the plan caters to the wealthy.

"While I'm glad that Senate Republicans have decided Delaware's economic growth ought to include the very people their policies have left behind for generations, the sad fact is that their plan offers little in the way of solutions that would do anything to help the working poor," said Delaware Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello.

Daniello did say it is good news that the republicans have "revived the bi-partisan conversation around solving chronic poverty and seem to have rallied behind some important efforts."

Those efforts include ones like the creation of the poverty housing tax credit and making the state earned income tax credit refundable. Those are historically bi-partisan issues that both republic and democratic lawmakers have worked on before.

Another proposal in the briefing is hailed as creating a 'cottage food' industry. This effort would allow certain food producers to operate out of their homes with the correct license and insurance. Republicans who wrote the plan say this proposal allows a family to create a side business and add income to their family budget.

These efforts will be presented in the form of legislative bills that have yet to be filed. To read the entire republican proposal, you can find it here

Reaction From Those Living in Poverty 

At the A.C.E. Peer Resource Center in Seaford on Wednesday there was a constant flow of people entering the building. Many of them are living in poverty, and were there looking to take advantage of the many services available. WBOC showed them the Republican agenda, to get their thoughts. 

Many people said they were just glad that poverty was in the conversation at Legislative Hall. That included Octavia Green, who was at the facility eating lunch with her three children. She said living in poverty can be a struggle. 

"I have to keep pushing," she said. "Whether I have no place to go or no food to eat. Either way I need to make a way somehow. That's what mothers have to do." 

Green said that she was in favor of sections of the new Republican agenda, including the tax credits that would make it easier for her to go back to school and to get a new job. 

ACE Center Director Jim Martin said that these tax credits would open doors for people like Green "without leverage." 

"It's kind of like pulling your boots up by the boot-straps," he said. "But how can you pull yourself up by your boot straps, if you don't have any boots? So they're going to try and get the boots on first. And that's through the job training. Trying to point people toward opportunities that make sense." 

Also at the ACE Center, WBOC spoke with 22-year-old Kelli Rushing, who is living in poverty. She said that she is dealing with a mental disorder, which has caused her medical bills to pile up. She said that the Earned Income Tax Credit Refund would help put some money back in her pocket.

"It gives me hope," she said. I mean - honestly. There's a lof of people that need this type of help." 

The statistics on poverty are especially troubling for children. A 2015 study from the University of Delaware found that there is a poverty rate of 22.1 percent among children. The problem is even more severe in Kent and Sussex counties, which have a rate of 24.3 percent.

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