Lawmakers Push Child Poverty Response, Advocates Urge Action
Ed Walz (Former Staff)Poverty & Family Economics
Washington – The United States Census Bureau today released national poverty data for 2014, reporting that about one-fifth (21.1 percent) of children lived in poverty last year. The child poverty remained well above the overall poverty rate of 14.8 percent and more than double the 10 percent poverty rate for senior citizens. The agency reported even higher poverty rates for children of color: 31.9 percent for Latino children and 37.1 percent for African American children. This data comes on the heels of last week’s Urban Institute analysis, showing that 39 percent of children in America spend at least a year of childhood in poverty.
Reacting to the data, congressional sponsors of the Child Poverty Reduction Act (H.R. 2408) urged their colleagues to support this proposal to cut the Nation’s child poverty rate in half within 10 years and eliminate child poverty within 20 years. The bill is modeled on an effective multipartisan effort in the United Kingdom. The British government acted years ago to establish a national child poverty reduction target, backed by benchmarks against which progress could be measured. Though the task is not complete, Britain saw reductions in child poverty since the establishment of a target policy, while child poverty in the U.S. has continued to rise. The letter was signed by the bill’s sponsor, Representative Danny Davis (D-Illinois), and cosponsors Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland).
The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has also acted on a bipartisan basis to address child poverty. During its debate of legislation funding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for federal fiscal year 2016, the committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. Lee and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard. The amendment tasks the National Academy of Sciences to recommend a policy agenda to halve child poverty within 10 years. Expert recommendations played an important part in implementing the UK’s child poverty target, and the Child Poverty Reduction Act includes a similar provision.
The First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, applauded these efforts, releasing the following statement from First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley:
“It’s been six years since the recession ended, but recovery still hasn’t reached millions of children. Britain has shown that we can protect children from poverty, as well as seniors. Representatives Davis, Lee, and Cummings want action on only proven response to child poverty. The real question for their colleagues is this: will you finally take action on the national child poverty crisis?”
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit campaignforchildren.org.