Providence, R.I. – Rhode Island's six gubernatorial candidates squared off over poverty issues in a forum sponsored by the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition yesterday.
In 2008, over 118,000 Rhode Islanders -- 12 percent of the population -- were living below the federal poverty level. All six gubernatorial candidates agree this is a problem but disagree on ways to solve it.
Republican candidate John Robitaille says one of the main problems is the high number of women raising children without dads.
"I don't know if government can fix this by giving more money to people," Robitaille says. "I think we have to go to the cause and stop putting band aids on the symptoms and we need to look at 'Where are these fathers?'"
Moderate party candidate Ken Block says more needs to be done to prevent fraud in the poverty programs the state already has.
"In Rhode Island, there's almost a $2 billion Medicaid program and not a shred of anti-fraud software in place for those systems."
All the candidates agreed getting Rhode Islanders back to work is job number one if the state is ever going to eradicate poverty.
Meanwhile, independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee says if he's elected he'll extend in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented workers. Chafee says it's one way to reduce the high school dropout rate, which in Rhode Island averages 23 percent for Hispanics.