One Missouri community has taken the issue of poverty to the national stage.

springfield-graphicEarlier this week, the Springfield City Council decided to send a letter to a federal agency asking for more robust oversight of payday lenders.  The city identified payday loans as one of several major contributors to poverty which needs to be addressed on a higher level.

Springfield City Manager Greg Burris says the designation was made by its 35 member “Impacting Poverty Commission”.  “That’s just one a number of different policy issues at the state and national level that we think needs to be fixed before we can really allow people to get out of poverty.”

The commission also pegged Medicaid expansion, food access and child obesity as major issues which policymakers on the state and national level need to address.

Burris says another gaping problem is a phenomenon called the “cliff effect”, where people working their way up lose government subsidized benefits when they reach a certain pay grade. “If you’re getting a daycare subsidy, and you’re working your way up through the organization, and you’re do for a raise, and you’ve earned a raise, but then you have to say ‘I can’t accept that raise’ because if you accept that additional one dollar an hour, you’ll lose you childcare.”

Burris said expansion of Medicaid benefits would go a long way in alleviating poverty at the local level, but he’s not sure state lawmakers are open to such a move.  Republican dominated state legislatures across the country have been resistant to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Missouri has GOP super-majorities in both its state Senate and House.

Springfield’s also received national recognition for its attention to poverty.  Burris says noted Harvard sociologist Doctor Robert Putnam praised the community for tackling poverty head-on.  “He’s been to 140 communities in the last year” said Burris.  “His quote was, he hasn’t found a city in the country that has a more sophisticated understanding of these issues than Springfield, Missouri.”

The city has also been applauded by the National Resource Network for its attention to poverty issues.  The heading on the National Resource Network website is “New Solutions for Cities”.