Helping the less fortunate lift themselves out of poverty has been a lifelong passion of Union County Commissioner Jack Howard.

This passion is fueling Howard in his campaign to become Oregon’s next commissioner of labor and industries. He said that if elected he would use his office to help lower the state’s poverty rate.

Oregon ranks 27th in the nation in terms of its poverty rate, with 13.3 percent of residents below the federal poverty line, according to statistics from the Center for American Progress ( Howard said he believes he could help drive down the state’s poverty rate by having Oregon install a program modeled after a successful one developed and used by the state of Vermont.

All elements which are pieces of the poverty puzzle including health care, housing and education would be addressed at all administrative levels of state government.

“There would be a cabinet level approach,’’ Howard said. “We would be coordinating our resources.

Howard said that if Oregon were to have such a system it would be so successful that Washington would begin using the model within a few years.

Howard said he would be relentless in his efforts to address poverty as labor commissioner.

“Every single day I will be involved in fighting poverty. If I don’t talk about poverty one day I will have failed that day,’’ the candidate said.

Howard, if elected, said he would also take steps to assist temporary workers. These employees often do not have health insurance benefits and can have a hard time receiving workers compensation if hurt on the job. Howard explained that because temporary workers often have many different employers, when they develop a work related injury it can be difficult for them to pinpoint who their employer was when they were hurt. This sometimes makes it much harder for injured temporary workers to receive workers compensation.

See complete story in Monday's Observer