Maryland Gov. Wes Moore is proposing a program to push government investments into high-poverty neighborhoods in Baltimore and beyond — his latest effort to fulfill promises to end child poverty and his campaign’s slogan of “leave no one behind.”

The Democratic governor unveiled his program in Brooklyn on Monday, dubbing the effort “ENOUGH”: The Engaging Neighborhoods, Organizations, Unions, Governments and Households Grant Program.

Moore has put $15 million in his budget proposal to fund the first year’s worth of grants, and says the state hopes to line up private donations for the program, as well.

Brooklyn — where a chaotic shooting last summer claimed two lives and injured more than two dozen others — is just the kind of community that can benefit from further investment, Moore said. About half of the children in the neighborhood live in poverty, significantly more than the state average.

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“This community has gone unseen. This community has gone unheard. This community has gone underestimated,” Moore said, speaking from a lectern at the LIFE Church Ministries in Brooklyn.

And Brooklyn is not alone, Moore said, noting there are high-poverty communities across the state’s urban, suburban and rural areas that need a boost. Across the city in Sandtown-Winchester, there was a flush of investment in the 1990s and again following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a young man who died from injuries he suffered in police custody — and yet poverty remains, Moore said.

“It’s a story that repeats itself: That if you are born into poverty, chances are you will die in poverty,” the governor said. “So we owe it to our people to disrupt these patterns that drive pain, that drive hardship and that drive tragedy.”

The ENOUGH program would be housed in the Governor’s Office for Children, an office that Moore revived in an effort to better coordinate services, such as education, nutrition and health care, for vulnerable children.

The ENOUGH grants would target improvements to community health and safety; provide “cradle to career” education for young people; connect residents with jobs; help families achieve sustainable incomes with access to services; and provide “high-quality support” to children with disabilities and children and young adults who are “justice-involved,” according to Moore’s proposed legislation.

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore discusses his proposed "ENOUGH Act," which stands for "Engaging Neighborhoods, Organizations, Unions, Governments and Households Grant Program in Brooklyn on January 29, 2024.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore applauds another speaker at a kickoff for his proposed "ENOUGH Act,” which stands for “Engaging Neighborhoods, Organizations, Unions, Governments and Households Grant Program” in Brooklyn on Jan. 29, 2024. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

The difference between ENOUGH and other government and private efforts, Moore said, is that the programs will be driven by needs as identified by community members themselves, and the money will be spent strategically.

“When it comes to communities struggling with poverty, there are likely many problems that need to be addressed all at once and our village elders know what those problems are, and how to fix them,” he said.

All of the money would be focused on neighborhoods where at least 20% of children live in poverty, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Moore’s team did not immediately provide a list of eligible communities.

About 12% of Maryland’s children live in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. And in Baltimore, 24% of kids live in poverty.

Moore chose LIFE Church Ministries in the South Baltimore neighborhood of Brooklyn to launch his campaign to get the ENOUGH Act passed. Founded in 2006, the church first met in a soccer facility before moving to a building on South Hanover Street in 2011.

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“We have prayed for, believed for, and wished for an act that focuses on the least, the left-out and the looked-over,” said Pastor Amin T. Flowers.

The governor has already lined up significant support for the ENOUGH Act, with House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson speaking at Monday’s announcement. The legislation has a bipartisan list of cosponsors, as well.

In one of his early acts as governor last year, Moore declared an “audacious goal” of ending childhood poverty in Maryland during his first State of the State speech. His first-year efforts toward the goal included accelerating the increase of the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and making permanent a temporary tax credit boost for low-income workers.

Those efforts have boosted the financial situation for hundreds of thousands of Marylanders, Moore’s office said, in turn benefiting the children in those families.

He’s followed up this year with reconstituting the Governor’s Office of Children, which was folded into another office under former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Moore also is proposing funneling more money into a Child Care Scholarship program — he’s calling it the state’s biggest investment in child care — though some lawmakers are opposed to a provision that will require participating families to pay a greater amount out of pocket to receive the scholarship.

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Moore also has sent a package of bills to the General Assembly that aim to attack the lack of affordable housing by increasing availability of housing and protecting the rights of renters.

“This bill continues the frontal assault on child poverty that we launched on our Inauguration Day,” Moore said.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County. 

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