SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A new effort launched today to build a better Bay Area by ending childhood poverty on the Peninsula.
After 15 years in Congress, former congresswoman Jackie Speier has announced her new mission.
"We are going to build a new generation of kids who won't ever know poverty," Speier said.
On Thursday, ABC7 went to East Palo Alto to meet some of the families Speier is hoping to help through her foundation.
In 2022, the National Institutes of Health published a study pointing to poverty in early childhood impacting infants' brain activity and lower school achievement.
Speier is hoping to change that starting by helping 200 families early next year.
"We are going to provide to newborns and their families in San Mateo County $300 a month for a full year. We have the funding in place. The foundation is putting half of the money and the (San Mateo) county, through two supervisors and their discretionary moneys, are putting up the other. Then we are going to raise the money for year two and three. We got to have an evaluator to make this go national," Speier said.
Families on Medicaid in San Mateo County will qualify for what Speier is calling the "Baby Bonus." Every day, Stanford pediatrician Dr. Lisa Chamberlain sees the need for this.
"Eighty-one percent of the deliveries in San Mateo County for families in Medicaid happens at our children's hospital," said Dr. Chamberlain and added, "Brain development in the first five years of life is extraordinary. Millions of neurons are forming new connections and developing in an exponential speed -- in a speed that we don't see in another time of life."
San Mateo County is the fourth wealthiest county in America. It is home to over 700,000 residents, including 22 billionaires. According to Speier's foundation, 27,000 children live in poverty. Princeton Professor Matthew Desmond was the keynote speaker at the summit. He believes change can come from here.
"We need to do three things: we need to deepen our investments in anti-poverty programs, especially affordable housing in this community. We also need to start attacking exploitation of the poor in the labor market," said Desmond. "The third move is, we have to end segregation. We need to embrace broad, inclusive communities. Those three moves is how we can actually end poverty in America."
Speier's successor in Congress, Representative Kevin Mullin is also working on a bill that would change the federal poverty formula.
"Our current federal poverty line was created during the great society under the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1964, and it hasn't been fundamentally updated since then. It does not really take into account cost. We are the epicenter of the affordability crisis in this part of the country. Childcare cost are enormous. Childcare costs more than higher education in San Mateo County," Mullin said.
Speier's goal is for San Mateo County to serve as a national example.
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