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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. BEATTY. Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank Mr. HORSFORD and Mr. JEFFRIES for leading this important effort for the CBC this evening--so that we can discuss a particularly important issue for me, my district, and this nation, and that is: ``Lifting Americans out of Poverty.''

As many of my constituents and colleagues already know, the great recession cost this country roughly 13 trillion dollars in household wealth, and pushed millions of Americans into poverty.

The poverty rate is at levels not seen in twenty years, and the most recent numbers show that more than 46 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line.

The most distressing fact is that the youngest Americans represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the U.S.

Though children make up less than a quarter of the population, they constitute more than one-third of Americans in poverty.

And, studies by the American Psychological Association have found correlations between poverty in children and higher rates of illness, abuse, neglect, developmental and educational delays, participation in risky behaviors such as smoking or sexual activities, and problems with self-esteem and depression.

And worse, growing up in poverty has a lasting negative impact on lifetime earning potential.

As a joint Princeton University--Brookings Institute study reported, the U.S. has decreasing income mobility, and increasing income inequality.

This means that more than ever, youths that grow up in poverty are more likely to remain in poverty for the duration of their lives.

But we have programs designed to buffer our youth from some of the harshest effects of situations for which they deserve no blame, and over which they have no control.

Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which provides nutritional support for the most vulnerable families, and which will face cuts in just a few months without intervening Congressional action.

Or programs like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The Housing Choice Vouchers provide subsidies to landlords directly by public housing agencies, to create housing options for very low-income families.

Though it varies from state to state, on average, a family earning $26,000 per year would be making too much to be eligible.

This program for the least fortunate among us will likely have to cut aid to 125,000 families immediately, due to cuts from sequestration.

Or programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit. This tax credit for low-to moderate-income couples, primarily those with qualifying children, not only provides a tax refund to the most deserving, but it dually functions to incent work even if the pay isn't great.

This is the type of progressive tax system that encourages self-sufficiency and in the long-run can reduce the need for government dependence.

Yet even this simple, long-standing beneficial tax credit is being offered up by some as ripe for elimination.

I can talk about the children and families who need these programs, in the abstract, as if they are some sort of different Americans--people who didn't work hard, or didn't spend wisely.

But the reality is: this type of poverty can happen to anyone.

Anyone in this Chamber, or watching at home on Wall Street or Main Street--this can happen to you.

One unexpected illness, one lost job due to ``just a bad economy,'' or one elderly family member whose medical and caretaking bills continue to pile up, and anyone can find themselves unable to make it without a little help.

That's what these vital programs do. That's why these programs are so important.

We as legislators have the opportunity and obligation to make sure that we put safeguards in place to ensure that no one is left out from the chance to pursue the American dream.

It's not just about helping the poorest Americans. It's about doing the right thing to help our neighbors, knowing that at any time, the shoe could be on the other foot.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this most important issue.

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