May 28, 2020

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Blasts Congressional Inaction, Calls on Congress to End Poverty

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, introduced a resolution urging Congress to live up its moral responsibility to end poverty in the United States.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is projected to push more families into poverty. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 4 in 10 Americans were unable to cover an unexpected expense of $400. However, the pandemic’s effects are set to sharply increase poverty if Congress fails to act. This has never been more apparent than the increase in Americans filing for unemployment – since mid-March, more than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment because businesses have shut down or down-sized their payroll. If this trend continues, the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University projects that 21 million more individuals will be living in poverty. Existing disparities in health, wealth, and access to services have been magnified by the pandemic, creating further hardship and inequality for communities of color and the poor, who are bearing the worst burdens of the crisis.

“COVID is a pandemic on top of a poverty pandemic with disastrous effects on our most vulnerable communities,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, yet our poverty rates continue to eclipse most industrialized nations. The latest numbers show that more than 38 million Americans live in poverty. These struggling families are disproportionately people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and children due to years of discriminatory policies. This is an immoral stain on our country.”

According to a recent study, the United States has spent an estimated $6.4 trillion on wars and fighting in more than 80 countries since 9/11 – a total that is $2 trillion more than the entire federal government’s spending in the last fiscal year.

“If our nation can afford to spend trillions of dollars on wars around the globe, we can invest a fraction of that amount in families to ensure no one struggles to keep food on the table in America,” Congresswoman Lee continued. “Budgets are moral documents – and for years, our budgets have failed to help those who need it the most. It is past time for Congress to live up to our moral imperative to end poverty. Anti-poverty programs are a matter of survival for countless Americans. It is time for Congress to prioritize those programs to get help to those who need it most. By cutting unneeded and wasteful military spending, ending mass incarceration, and enforcing a more equitable tax system, these funds can be reinvested into bolstering social safety net programs, comprehensive health care, supporting livable wages, and safeguarding the future of our children.”

The full text of the bill can be found here.