WASHINGTON D.C. – Half in Ten, a campaign to cut poverty in half over 10 years, urged Congress today to take immediate action in response to new Census Bureau data for 2009 that show the largest number of people living in poverty since 1959 and that more than one in five U.S. children lived in poverty last year.
“The Obama administration and Congress have already taken important steps to prevent even more workers and families from falling into poverty,” said Melissa Boteach, campaign manager for Half in Ten. “Without the relief provided by the Recovery Act, an already bad situation would be even worse, but clearly we need to do more to reverse these troubling trends.”
Dr. Harry Holzer, author of “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: Why Tackling Child Poverty During the Great Recession Makes Economic Sense,” a new Half in Ten report released today, said policymakers should pay special attention to the needs of children and young workers living in poverty. “The increase in child poverty that we observe for 2009 is a serious blow to our country and our economy,” said Holzer, an economist and national poverty expert who teaches at Georgetown University. “The costs of child poverty will be with us now and for years to come in the form of lower educational outcomes, less productive workers, and greater health expenditures. We need to invest in solutions that help vulnerable children, youth, and families now to avoid long-term economic costs that add to the deficit later.”
The census data also showed increasing racial, ethnic, and gender disparities. “While all groups are suffering from the Great Recession, women, single-parent households, and communities of color are feeling the harshest effects,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a Half in Ten partner organization. “As we seek to cut poverty in half over the next decade, we must also tackle racial, ethnic, and gender disparities to ensure a shared economic recovery.”
Half in Ten and its partners are calling for Congress to act immediately to create jobs and make the tax code work for working families in light of today’s Census numbers. Congress must act soon to extend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund, or TANF ECF, which expires on September 30. “The TANF ECF is a job-creation engine through which states have partnered with the private sector to create a quarter-million new jobs,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, another Half in Ten partner. “Congress should also make permanent reforms to the earned income tax credit and child tax credit in this year’s tax debate to give working parents the tools to keep their children out of poverty.”
“Given the recession that began two years ago, today’s figures are not surprising, but they are troubling—and they call for an urgent response from our leaders,” Boteach said. “Despite this year’s dramatic increase, poverty is a problem we can solve with measures like the TANF Emergency Fund, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit. These policies not only make a big difference to low-income families today, but represent cost-effective measures that will ultimately reduce the long-term costs of child poverty. With over one in five children living below the federal line, we cannot afford inaction.”
Half in Ten was launched in 2008 to urge local, state, and national leaders to set a national goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years, and to build the political and public will to advance legislation and programs that will help us to reach it.
More information on the campaign can be found at www.halfinten.org.
Read the report “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish” here.