Lee, Fudge, Introduce House Resolution Calling for Poverty Bill of Rights

Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) introduced a resolution calling on Congress to reaffirm the rights of all Americans living in poverty by enacting a Poverty Bill of Rights.  The resolution comes as the COVID–19 pandemic continues to worsen economic inequality and threatens to push millions more Americans into poverty.

“We are facing a pandemic and a poverty crisis in this country – both of which disproportionately impact communities of color,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  “This is a national emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed just how deep inequality runs in this country, with 17 million people unemployed and 23 million renters facing the threat of eviction.  As chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, I strongly support the establishment of a Poverty Bill of Rights to address inequities in housing, education, and health care as well as strengthen the social safety net.” 

“The persistence of widespread poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world is both a moral and policy failure,” said Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.  “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the glaring inequality and deep injustices that plague our country today.  Millions of families who were already struggling to make ends meet have been disproportionately impacted by illness, job and wage losses, evictions, utility shut offs, and growing food insecurity.  During this time of great need, we must uplift low-income Americans and recognize their rights to equal opportunity, a living wage, housing, education, quality health care, and assistance in times of need.  Declaring the fundamental economic rights of all Americans is the first step towards building a future where men, women and children do not suffer the effects of poverty in America.”

Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, the United States continues to have one of the highest rates of poverty among developed nations.  Prior to the pandemic, about 1-in-8 Americans, including 1-in-6 children, lived below the poverty line.  Across the country, millions of families and individuals living at or near the federal poverty line struggle to afford basic needs, from health care and housing to utilities and food expenses. 

The resolution expresses the sense that Congress should enact a poverty bill of rights to reaffirm the right of all Americans to live a life free from poverty and its impacts.  The resolution outlines the fundamental economic rights every person deserves, including, but not limited to: the right to equal opportunity, a living wage, robust paid leave, affordable and nutritious foods, retirement security, affordable housing, equitable education, quality and affordable health care, clean air, equitable access to technology and broadband, safe neighborhoods, and equal representation at the ballot box.

Original cosponsors for the resolution include Representatives Karen Bass (CA-37); Joyce Beatty (OH-03); André Carson (IN-07); Kathy Castor (FL-14); Jim Cooper (TN-05); Dwight Evans (PA-03); Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29); Al Green (TX-09); Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20); Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30); Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10); Bobby L. Rush (IL-01); Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Terri A. Sewell (AL-07); and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7). 

The legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: AAUW California; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Children’s Defense Fund; Children’s HealthWatch; Equal Rights Advocates; First Focus Campaign for Children; Food Research & Action Center (FRAC); Greater Cleveland Food Bank; Greater Hartford Legal Aid; Law Foundation of Silicon Valley; Maine Equal Justice; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; Mississippi Center for Justice; National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE); National Lawyers Guild - San Francisco Bay Area Chapter; NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty; Ohio Association of Foodbanks; Parent Voices CA; San Francisco-Marin Food Bank; St. Anthony's Foundation; Western Center on Law & Poverty; Women’s Foundation California; and Young Invincibles. 

The bill text for the resolution is available here.