On October 29, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing examining welfare and poverty in America. Senators and witnesses discussed the causes of poverty for families, with a particular focus on children. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and several of his colleagues asserted that our government was not doing enough to address systemic poverty in America and that poverty has grown worse for many families. One in five children in the U.S. are living in poverty, while an estimated 40% of children will be poor one year in their lives before they turn eighteen—about 29 million of today’s children.
Dr. Luke Shaefer, co-author of the book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, discussed the “striking instability” poor families face each day, including their inability to maintain housing. He said, “The cost of housing has gotten to be such a crisis point for many poor families. We have millions of poor families and children who are spending more than half of their incomes on housing, so we saw this incredible residential instability of families moving quite constantly. Being housed precariously leaves children vulnerable. When we talk about the intergenerational transmission of poverty, it’s been our experience that this happens through the experience of traumas. When you’re precariously housed or doubled up, you’re more at risk of someone who wants to take advantage of you. And often, there’s no one looking out for children.” Kathryn Edin, Dr. Shaefer’s $2.00 a Day co-author, will be a speaker at NLIHC’s 2016 Policy Forum.
Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) expressed concern about the ability of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to meet the current need, saying “Many families who are eligible for assistance through TANF do not receive it. Oftentimes, states do not engage TANF recipients in robust activities designed to help them obtain and keep a job.”
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke about the success of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC) in bringing millions of people out of poverty and the need to expand and make permanent these tax provisions. He said there were members of the committee who wanted to do just that and that the issue could earn bipartisan support. Multiple senators also voiced support for raising the federal minimum wage.
For additional information, visit www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=76c528a6-5056-a055-642b-fed0ed558a3e