Celia Hayhoe, family resource management specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Kimberly Edmonds, family and consumer sciences Extension agent in Henrico County, have been tapped to assist Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's newly created Poverty Reduction Taskforce.

On May 7, the governor announced the creation of Virginia’s Poverty Reduction Taskforce, a group of public and private partners who will make policy recommendations to combat poverty in the commonwealth. The taskforce will identify challenges and opportunities to lift children and families out of poverty, hold regional community meetings to get public perspectives on the issue, and make short- and long-term policy recommendations.

Hayhoe and Edmonds have been named to the asset-development working group, one of three teams of national, state, and local experts who will spend a year exploring their policy area. The other working groups address individual and community resilience, and workforce training and education.

“We couldn’t have better partners to help us make this conversation possible,” said Anthony Conyers Jr., commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services, which has been actively involved in the initiative. “Virginia Cooperative Extension has a long-standing commitment to issues that have a real impact on the community -- and poverty is certainly one of the most deeply felt. We’re eager to hear solutions from the public and the leaders of Virginia on ways we can expand economic opportunities for all residents.”

Extension is also helping to facilitate “Act on Poverty” community conversations at 25 locations around the commonwealth on Saturday, July 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. Citizens are encouraged to attend the conversations and offer strategies for reducing poverty in their communities and statewide. The events are free and open to the public. “Virginia Cooperative Extension already helps Virginians learn to make smart financial choices for themselves and their families,” said Karen Gehrt, associate director of family and consumer sciences for Extension. “The Act on Poverty events will allow our FCS agents, who have the on-the-ground experience and detailed knowledge of their local communities, to continue their work to provide economic opportunities for Virginians.”

The most recent data show that more than 739,000 Virginians – nearly 10 percent of the state population – live below the federal poverty line, including 232,600 or 12.9 percent of Virginia’s children. As of 2007, the federal poverty line was $10,210 in annual income for an individual and $20,650 for a family of four. While Virginia’s statewide poverty rates are among the 10 lowest in the nation, Southwest and Southside Virginia each have poverty rates above 17 percent.

For more information about an Act on Poverty event in your region, contact your local Extension office or visit the Act on Poverty website.

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