Testimony for the Public Hearing on Public Benefits 

April 29, 2024 

Good afternoon Acting Commissioner Guinn and members of the Child Poverty Reduction Council. Thank you for the opportunity to share testimony; my name is Lara Kyriakou and I’m from The Education Trust–New York, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to educational equity. We work to attain educational justice through research, policy, and advocacy that results in all students – especially those from low-income backgrounds or students of color – achieving at high levels from early childhood through college completion.  Ed Trust–NY coordinates the Raising NY coalition, a diverse statewide coalition of parent, early childhood, education, business, and health organizations dedicated to supporting the learning potential of all children, with a focus on improving long-term outcomes for infants and toddlers who are low-income, children of color, and other under-served groups.  We work closely with CPRAC members to advance policies that have been proven to reduce child poverty, especially for Black, Latinx, and multi-racial families that continue to experience poverty at much higher rates than non-Hispanic, White children, the result of systemic and ongoing racism in housing, education, employment, and other systems. 

New Yorkers continue to feel the economic burdens of the pandemic, particularly for young children and families of color, who are more likely to live in poverty. There are more than four million children residing in New York State, of which nearly one-in-five are experiencing poverty and about 37% live in low-income (below 200% of the federal poverty level) households. Data shows us that younger children, particularly those under three, are more likely to experience homelessness, food and other economic insecurities.  Our youngest New Yorkers deserve better.  Consistent access to public benefits can provide essential support to families, especially those with young children, and can help offset the far-reaching negative impacts of economic insecurity during the critical early years of brain development and growth. 

The Education Trust—NY, through parent polls, focus groups, and the Early Childhood Parent Lab, have heard consistently from families and other stakeholders about the importance of an accessible, user-friendly public benefit system that does not place undue burdens on families that are caused by language barriers, bureaucratic processes, and other access challenges and treats children and families with the dignity and respect that we all deserve. Later this year, the Education Trust—NY will release a report sharing qualitative and quantitative data with coalition partners who support families across the state gain access to early childhood programs. 

We thank you for the opportunity to share testimony and applaud this public hearing as what we hope will be the first of many, opportunities for families to inform and strengthen efforts to improve The Child Poverty Reduction Council, which was created with near-unanimous, bipartisan support from legislators and constituents in every corner of New York State, has the opportunity to make substantial impact on the lives of thousands of children and families and change the trajectory of families’ lives. By uplifting families of color and those living in poverty, New York can ensure that the most marginalized children have the resources they need to reach their full potential in school and beyond. 

Thank you and please feel free to contact me at [email protected] to discuss my testimony further.