Congressional Black Caucusby Representative Yvette D. Clarke
Posted on 2014-01-08
CLARKE of New York. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, five decades after President Johnson declared a war on poverty, economic inequality is pervasive in our society; and our work to reduce substantial disparities in income and wealth must continue. But we must not forget that the war on poverty has and will continue to improve the lives of millions of Americans.
For who among us would tell a senior citizen that Medicare was a failure? Or tell the parents of a child who attends preschool under Head Start that that program doesn't work? Who among us would tell the families who have had access to desperately needed--and often lifesaving--health care as a result of Medicaid that that program was not worth the cost? Mr. Speaker, our work has not yet been completed. In December, we returned home to share the holiday season with our families, to gather at the dinner table, and to exchange gifts. However, millions of Americans were not as fortunate because Congress returned home without extending unemployment benefits to 1.3 million Americans, not including the millions of people who rely on them and their families.
If unemployment benefits are not extended, approximately 5 million Americans are expected to lose emergency unemployment benefits over the next 12 months; and of that number, 383,000 are New Yorkers. Additionally, the lapse in unemployment benefits is likely to result in an increase in demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.
This is occurring at a time when the Republicans are contemplating making $40 billion in cuts to nutrition assistance. Already, 3,185,000 New Yorkers are dealing with the impacts of the SNAP benefit cut that happened this past November due to an expiration of funding made available under the American Recovery Act.
This is unfair. This is unjust. It makes no sense and, more importantly, it does not help Americans regain their economic footing. But we have the ability to correct this mistake by extending unemployment benefits and preventing further cuts to SNAP.
Congress can affirm the common priorities that we share as a Nation and [[Page H48]] work together to make them a reality. We, as a Congress, must continue to work together to end poverty in America. Having said that, I yield back to the gentlelady in remembrance of President Johnson's 50-year war on poverty. We need to take up the battle once again.