Monday, October 22, 2018
Business

Florida Chamber Foundation summit focuses on poverty, child care and education

TAMPA — In a time of high growth but rising inequality, the Florida Chamber Foundation gathered business executives and community leaders Tuesday to pose a few big questions:

How deep is poverty in Florida? How broad? How can business create prosperity that reduces generational poverty?

The answers, organizers suggested, could have a lot to do with children and making sure that every family, especially the poorest, can find child care and early-education programs that enable their kids to enter school ready to learn and succeed.

"Most people think this is a federal issue," Florida Chamber of Commerce president Mark Wilson told about 100 people at the foundation’s first "Less Poverty through More Prosperity Summit" at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel.

It’s not, he said.

"This is a Florida challenge that, if we all banded together, there are some things that we could do to change the trajectory of the lives of, literally, millions of Floridians," he said.

The summit was an outgrowth of the foundation’s once-in-a-decade project to figure out where the state will be — and where Floridians want it to be — in 2030, the year after today’s kindergarteners will graduate from high school.

What emerged, Wilson said, was a "Tale of Two Floridas."

Out of a statewide population approaching 21 million, more than 3.1 million Floridians live in poverty, and more than a third of those in poverty — 944,415 — are 17 or younger, according to a foundation report. More than a quarter of those living in poverty, nearly 281,000 children, are younger than 5.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 44 percent of Florida households, mostly working poor, struggle to meet basic needs

While a lot of the foundation’s early conversation was about creating jobs, Wilson said it soon became clear that a major issue is generational poverty. In turn, that brought up the question of what can Florida do to help kids born into poverty. So the foundation began focusing on two issues:

• Child care. It’s often the costliest impediment to economic stability for families with young children, according to a United Way of Florida analysis of Floridians who work but have limited assets and constrained incomes. In most Florida counties, the least expensive child care can cost more than the least expensive rent.

One program the foundation identified as a key player in this area is Florida’s School Readiness program, which was created to help low-income working families pay for good child care and provide young children with early learning that leads to success in school later.

It’s hard to overstate the value of early childhood education.

"Before there is an achievement gap, there is a readiness gap," said Brittany Birken, CEO of the Florida Children’s Council. And research has found that children living poverty who are not reading on their grade level by the end of third grade are 13 times less likely to graduate from high school.

• The problem of "cliffs" in social service programs. In too many cases, according to the foundation, a small increase in income for working-class adults can disqualify them for programs such as the school readiness initiative. That creates reasons for job candidates or employees not to pursue higher-paying work for which they are qualified because they need to preserve their eligibility for a program that helps their children.

"The labor market’s distorted, said Jerry Parrish, the foundation’s chief economist and director of research. "It’s not fair to businesses, and it’s not fair to individuals. That’s a big issue that we have to deal with."

Social service providers agreed that rolling back poverty requires a holistic approach to help working class families build assets and fend off emergencies that can descend on them in swarms.

"People who are living in poverty are living in the tyranny of the moment," said Tim Center, CEO of the Capital Area Community Action Agency.

These are families who go to bed at night and get up for work in the morning trying to decide which bill they can afford to pay — the grocery bill, the rent or the car repair bill — said Mireya Eavey, Sarasota and DeSoto area president for the United Way of the Suncoast.

"The issues are beyond wages," she said. "They’re housing costs. They’re child care costs. … They’re one chaos away from everything falling apart."

RELATED: Cost of necessities has Florida’s poor living on a razor’s edge

The problems that poor families face are complex, and can touch on transportation, job training, coping with disabilities and other issues in addition to child care, participants said. So forward-thinking policy and public private-coordination is key. CareerSource Florida, the state’s workforce policy and investment board, invested $3 million to help local workforce development boards help low-income Floridians find jobs that boost their earnings, including by providing training and retrofitting equipment to help people with disabilities find work.

"The conversation is much bigger than giving an individual a job," CareerSource Florida president and CEO Michelle Dennard said, "but it’s transformational."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

Comments
Ron DeSantis says Florida public schools are wasting money. Are they?

Ron DeSantis says Florida public schools are wasting money. Are they?

Florida’s school leaders have made plain for years their desire for more money to run their districts. They’ve asked lawmakers for higher per-student funding, and the freedom to spend the money where it’s needed. They’ve requested more construction m...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for Oct. 26

Pasco Business Digest for Oct. 26

News and notes about Pasco businesses
Published: 10/22/18
Dear Penny: I have a $30k inheritance and no debt. Why do I feel stuck?

Dear Penny: I have a $30k inheritance and no debt. Why do I feel stuck?

Dear Penny, I recently received a $30,000 check from my grandparents as an early inheritance. Don’t panic: They’re both still alive. They gifted it to me for tax purposes. Ever since I received the check, I’ve just been staring at it. I don’t know wh...
Published: 10/22/18
Hurricane Michael’s effect on timber industry ‘catastrophic,

Hurricane Michael’s effect on timber industry ‘catastrophic," Adam Putnam says.

Hurricane Michael’s enduring legacy could include long-term damage to Florida’s timber industry. While experts try to get a handle on the carnage, state Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday that preliminary estimates peg it ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Time is ticking to nominate your employer as a top workplace in Tampa Bay

Time is ticking to nominate your employer as a top workplace in Tampa Bay

It’s not too late.We’re extending the deadline until Nov. 16 to nominate your employer as one of Tampa Bay’s Top 100 Workplaces. This marks the tenth consecutive year that the Tampa Bay Times has highlighted the best of the best companies and organiz...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Unbound Miami: Entrepreneur Daniel Seal talks about his innovation festival

Unbound Miami: Entrepreneur Daniel Seal talks about his innovation festival

For years, Daniel Seal could see the disconnect between entrepreneurs, corporations and governments.A serial entrepreneur and former politician in London, England, Seal knew if he could bring the three entities together they would all benefit. Improv...
Updated: 5 hours ago
After Hurricane Michael, a hunt for surviving oysters in Apalachicola

After Hurricane Michael, a hunt for surviving oysters in Apalachicola

APALACHICOLAT.J. Ward’s phone rang. Service had improved in the days since Hurricane Michael."Get another scrub brush and a squeegee," he told his sister. "The littlest one you can find."The Ward family’s 13 Mile Seafood Market smelled of bleach, so ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida’s unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent while Tampa Bay’s rate plunges to 2.9 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent while Tampa Bay’s rate plunges to 2.9 percent

Florida’s economy is continuing to hum along, according to September employment numbers released Friday. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to a mark last seen in February 2007 — 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in August.And compared to a year ...
Published: 10/19/18
Jeff Vinik invests in another tech startup focused on health and wellness

Jeff Vinik invests in another tech startup focused on health and wellness

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has made a series of investments in companies focused on health, wellness and technology in industries ranging from construction to medicine, and from fitness to radiation protection.He’s at it again. This...
Published: 10/19/18
Is the annual pass worth it? As Disney changes pricing system, we help you decide

Is the annual pass worth it? As Disney changes pricing system, we help you decide

Though costly, annual passes at Disney World, Universal, Busch Gardens and other parks can sometimes be a smarter choice. You just have to know what you’re getting.
Published: 10/19/18