Past financial crises and periods of slow growth in developing countries show that economic downturns may impact the income of the poor less severely than that of the non-poor. However, given the paucity of their initial incomes, even small reductions in earnings impose a heavy toll on the poor. While safety nets and emergency assistance can help protect minimum levels of consumption, policies confronting economic crises should not be reduced to mitigation strategies. They should include interventions to strengthen human capabilities and improve the main asset of the poor: their labor. Times of economic crisis are opportunities to stimulate productive employment for the poor, so they can better cope with crisis and participate in recovery.