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  • Poverty and Its Impacts on American Families

    by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard

    Posted on 2015-12-09

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    ROYBAL-ALLARD. Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus on child poverty. Before I do, I would like to commend my colleague, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, for her long and steadfast commitment to addressing the crisis of child poverty in our Nation.

    According to the 2015 National Center for Children in Poverty report, in the United States, more than 16 million children live in families with incomes below the Federal poverty level. A new study by the Urban Institute found that almost 40 percent of all American children live in poverty for at least 1 year before they reach the age of 18.

    America's children, who represent 23 percent of the U.S. population, make up over 32 percent of those living in poverty. Sadly, my home State of California is an example of this human tragedy. Today, 2.5 million Californians live in deep poverty, and 33 percent of them are children whose family income is less than $12,000 a year. In my district alone, 37,000 children live in extreme poverty.

    The harmful conditions associated with poverty include substandard housing, lack of nutrition, overcrowding, and exposure to violence, all of which can be toxic to a developing child's brain. Research tells us that, even when experienced for a short period of time, many of the negative effects of living in poverty stay with children for the rest of their lives. This includes higher rates of health and developmental problems, poor academic achievement, and lower rates of high school graduation.

    In addition to the individual tragedy of child poverty, it ultimately impacts all of us, costing our country an estimated $500 billion a year in lost earnings, higher crime-related costs, and increased health expenditures.

    Unfortunately, there is a deep void in awareness and government accountability for the devastating crisis of child poverty in our country.

    {time} 1815 To address this lack of awareness, this year Congresswoman Barbara Lee and I offered an amendment to the Labor HHS appropriations bill to fund a comprehensive National Academies of Science nonpartisan analysis of child poverty in the U.S.

    Such a study would enable Congress to better understand the root causes of child poverty in our Nation. It would provide invaluable information on how Congress and service providers can improve the effectiveness and outcomes of poverty-related programs and services.

    Fortunately, our appropriations colleagues on both sides of the aisle agreed with us and unanimously supported our amendment. We are grateful that it was included in the final House version of the FY16 Labor Health and Human Services bill.

    Our amendment is now part of a package of bills being conferenced with Senate appropriators. It is our sincere hope that our child poverty amendment will be included in the conferenced Labor, Health, and Human Services appropriations bill for FY16.

    Mr. Speaker, it is unconscionable that, in the United States, the richest country in the world, child poverty is destroying the lives of millions of our Nation's children. We must address this tragedy now. I thank Congresswoman Lee for organizing this Special Order and for her relentless leadership in the call to action to end child poverty in this country.

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