Families living in poverty speak with Congress

October 15, 2018
by Charles Palmer, RESULTS U.S. Poverty Campaigns Intern

With 43 million people in the United States living below the poverty line, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hosted a hearing with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival so that members of Congress and staff could hear directly from those currently experiencing poverty. When someone asked Rep. Pelosi to list three major issues facing Congress, she said: “Our children, our children, and our children.”

One of the attendees, Reverend Traci Blackmon, spoke briefly on poverty in our country. She stated that “the United States has 40,000 zip codes — but 6,600 of these zip codes are home to 80 percent of people living in poverty.” This statement was followed by a discussion of accountability. We know where children living in poverty are located, but Congress has not acted. Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states that every human being is entitled to be treated with dignity, and there is an obligation for us to do everything we can to make sure our children are safe.

Many families across the country are struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. For example, there was a single mother from Detroit who spoke at the hearing. She has two associate degrees and a bachelor’s degree, but she has turned to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help feed her family. This program aims to offer nutritional assistance to millions of low income individuals and families. As attendees pointed out, the SNAP program does not keep people in poverty but in fact lifts millions of people above the poverty line each year. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) quickly agreed with the notion that people on the SNAP program need assistance in their time of need. She referred to her college days when she was a single mother on SNAP. For more, watch the video of the hearing.

“I believed back then that my government would provide for me, now I worry,” Representative Lee said. She added that she worries the rug is being pulled from people who want a better life for their children.

Living in poverty can impact an individual’s health, education, and nutrition. Rep. Lee, alongside her colleagues, has introduced legislation called the Child Poverty Reduction Act (H.R. 1630) to reduce the child poverty rate. This bill aims to cut the child poverty rate in half in 10 years and eliminate all child poverty in the U.S. in 20 years. This is the kind of approach that Congress needs to take, and it only happens when voters hold their elected officials accountable.

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