by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia
They remain on the fringe or largely go unnoticed by the rest of us. It is easier that way, if we don’t acknowledge the problem then it may not really exist. The problem my friends and neighbors is very real. The really bad news is that it is not going away. Unless of course you decide to be part of the solution.
Sound familiar to what you read last week? It is. Almost word for word. But, it is a much larger problem, a crisis I dare say, than just mental health that we and our “other” neighbors face. The truly unfortunate thing is that it has been with us for generations. I have seen it in my classroom for over 30 years and haven’t really done anything to address it. I am reminded of it monthly at city hall when the shutoff notice is placed on my desk, in the best cases we work out a payment plan, but the crisis persists. There is no way out for “other” neighbors; the ones who are trapped in generational poverty.
NO, they are not just simply lazy and live off the system. Most work two jobs at minimum wage; doing the very best they can to provide for the ones they love. Their love of family is no different than yours or mine for they are human just like you and me. Most believe if they just work harder they can make it; though most inevitably fail because they lack the skills and/or education that gives the rest of us our advantage. In our community generational poverty does not discriminate against who it afflicts, it cares not about race and is all the same to generational poverty or families born into it.
In our school district between 40 and 60 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The census number is closer to 40, but because many families do not claim it out of a sense of pride or because they can’t complete the paperwork the number is actually closer to 60. Sixty percent of us can’t afford food; yet unemployment is at an all-time low. How can that be? We are the land of opportunity and plenty, aren’t we? We can do better, can’t we?
Books have been written on the subject of generational poverty. In fact, thanks to School District Superintendent Randy Jensen, we heard from the foremost authority on the subject last Friday.
Organizer, activist, advocate and author Dr. Donna Beegle is a rarity. She is one of the few who found her way out of generational poverty. She had help. And, that’s what it will take from many of us if we are indeed the community I believe we are. Last week I wrote: If you are interested in at least considering being part of the local solution to a national crisis please leave your name, email and phone number with Sarah Nulph at the police department. She will see that I get it. I will be in contact with you by September10. I look forward to working with you.
To the all the school district employees and community leaders who had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Beegle speak last week, I sincerely hope you make the time to be part of the solution that will truly make American Falls the very best place for all of us to live. Besides Mr. Jensen, my hat is off this week to Blanca Mendez, the folks at ISU Outreach and the FFA volunteers; 12-20 of our community members are ready to take and pass the final test for their GED. More still are learning language, communication, computer and job skills giving them the ability to earn more from their employers. More still are in the pipeline to do the very same things. Which proves the point; NO they are not lazy, they just need a hand up and would rather not have to depend on a hand out to provide for their families.
In a very similar vein, I was visited by a young man at city hall last week in between meetings. He and his friends have managed to get Medicaid expansion placed on the ballot for this November’s election. If we pass it the expansion will provide affordable health care to 62,000 Idahoans, according to Governor Otter’s work group, cost us NO new taxes and save us over $65,000,000 in the next five years. It is the fiscally responsible and socially correct thing to do for your neighbors who make too much to qualify for regular Medicaid but not enough to pay for health insurance themselves. How many of you, your friends, co-workers or employees are one of those 62,000. Remember to vote YES for basic healthcare needs, vote YES for Medicaid Expansion or Proposition #2 on November 6.
Please read the information in your monthly bill, you will find it important. Please, contact me by September 10 to be one of the many helping hands needed to truly make American Falls the very best place to live.
Until next week…
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