06.06.16

Will Republicans Push Real Solutions to End Poverty or Just the Same, Tired Block Grant Proposals and Regurgitated Talking Points?

House Republicans are finally focusing on the nearly 47 million Americans – including more than 16 million children – living in poverty. Three years after the Democratic Caucus formed our poverty task force, Republicans have finally created their own.

Tomorrow, the Speaker’s Office is expected to introduce its so-called poverty agenda. Will their proposal endorse proven and effective policies that build pathways into the middle class or will they leave nearly 47 million Americans with nothing more than ineffective block grant proposals and regurgitated talking points?

If House Republicans are serious about tackling poverty, will they endorse some or all of these proven strategies?

1)      Create American Jobs: Relentless Republican obstructionism in Congress has created uncertainty and instability in the economy, including the 2013 GOP government shutdown that cost our country $24 billion. Additionally, the GOP’s failure to pass a budget, rebuild our roads and bridges, and invest in quality workforce training has restricted the creation of good paying jobs, especially for low-income families and communities of color. Will their poverty plan include a strategy to rein in the Tea Party extremists and restore vital investments to create good jobs for all, especially our most vulnerable?

2)      Give Americans A Raise: The data is clear. Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would give 42% of American workers a raise. Simply put, employees deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. Will the Republican Task Force endorse this common sense policy to get hardworking Americans off the treadmill of work that simply doesn’t pay?

3)      Pay Women Fairly: When the average female worker is paid nearly $11,000 less per year than their male counterparts, families have less money and are more likely to live in poverty. These lost wages translate into nearly a year’s worth of average mortgage payments. Will the Task Force’s agenda address this imbalance that holds working women and their families back?

4)      Endorse a Bipartisan Expansion of EITC: Speaker Ryan and I have long supported an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty tools. In 2014, EITC helped lift 9.4 million Americans out of poverty. Will the Speaker’s Task Force endorse a bipartisan expansion of the program that would increase the credit and expand accessibility to childless workers at 21 years of age?

5)      Be Pro-Family & Pro-Worker: Too many families are trying to strike a difficult, if not impossible, balance between work and caring for children and older family members. For impoverished families, re-joining the workforce often means spending more than a third of their earnings on child care. Current programs are woefully underfunded and recent Republican budgets have slashed the already limited investments in Head Start and child care programs. Will the Task Force reverse the GOP’s long-term trend of making it harder for workers with family responsibilities to work?

6)      A Place to Call Home: Homelessness and unaffordable housing continue to keep many families trapped in poverty. Sadly, this problem is getting worse. Yet time and time again, Republicans have ignored the crisis or made it worse by enacting “rob Peter to pay Paul” schemes that divest federal investments from our most vulnerable and needy, especially in communities of color. Will the Task Force finally provide a serious GOP response to this growing crisis instead of paying a shell game with affordable housing funding accounts?

7)      A Real Path To End Poverty: I have long called for the creation of a national strategy to address poverty with the goal of cutting it in half over the next decade. Coordinated national strategies have proven effective in the past on issues ranging from addressing HIV/AIDS, improving cybersecurity and preventing child abuse. Will Republicans make a real commitment with a serious national plan to end poverty in America?

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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Democrat Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity.