Advocacy group, lawmakers discuss how to address poverty

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JEFFERSON CITY - Community organizers rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to oppose legislation adding work requirements to some government benefit programs.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, introduced two bills in January; Senate Bill 4 would change the work requirements for people who use food stamps, and Senate Bill 76 would add work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Both bills moved one step closer to becoming law Tuesday.

Dawna Fogarty is the executive director of Missouri Community Action Network. She said the group has been talking to legislators about why community organizers don't support these bills.

“There’s a lot of work to do there in terms of educating public officials of why that is really harmful for families,” Fogarty said. “It doesn't really help them transition off of public benefits. It hurts them in the end.”

Sater was not available for comment.

Missouri CAN’s annual advocacy day focused on five policy priorities: economic and family security, education, food and nutrition, health and housing and energy.

Fogarty said it is impossible to only focus on one of the areas.

“They're all intersecting, and they all influence one area to another,” she said.

Missouri CAN members from across the state spoke with legislators about several issues that affect low-income Missourians.

One advocate who has worked in community organizing for 40 years said her goal for the day was to help lawmakers understand their impact.

“The decisions that they make impact the whole community,” Jacqueline Hutchinson said. “I wanted to come to make sure that message was clear.”

Missouri CAN’s 19 agencies serve every county in the state.