Representatives Marcia L. Fudge (left) and Barbara Lee (right).
On July 16th, a resolution calling on Congress to reaffirm the rights of all Americans living in poverty was introduced through the Poverty Bill of Rights by Representatives Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) and Barbara Lee (CA-13).
“The persistence of widespread poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world is both a moral and policy failure,” said Rep. Fudge in a press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the glaring inequality and deep injustices that plague our country today. Millions of families who were already struggling to make ends meet have been disproportionately impacted by illness, job and wage losses, evictions, utility shut offs, and growing food insecurity. During this time of great need, we must uplift low-income Americans and recognize their rights to equal opportunity, a living wage, housing, education, quality health care, and assistance in times of need. Declaring the fundamental economic rights of all Americans is the first step towards building a future where men, women and children do not suffer the effects of poverty in America.”
The United States continues to have one of the highest rates of poverty among developed nations, despite being one of the richest countries in the world. Prior to the pandemic, about 1 in 8 Americans lived below the poverty line and across the country, millions of families and individuals living at or near the federal poverty line struggle to afford basic needs, from health care and housing to utilities and food expenses.
Representative Lee also commented, “We are facing a pandemic and a poverty crisis in this country – both of which disproportionately impact communities of color...This is a national emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed just how deep inequality runs in this country, with 17 million people unemployed and 23 million renters facing the threat of eviction. As chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, I strongly support the establishment of a Poverty Bill of Rights to address inequities in housing, education, and health care as well as strengthen the social safety net.”
The resolution outlines 23 rights that all Americans should have to live a life free from poverty and its impacts:
1) The right to equal opportunity, irrespective of race, gender, or socioeconomic status.
2) The right to working family tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, that are proven to lift families out of poverty, free from onerous eligibility requirements.
3) The right to a livable wage that is enough to ensure adequate housing, food, clothing and other basic household needs.
4) The right to robust paid leave programs so that they can care for themselves, their families, and dependents without fear of financial devastation.
5) The right to emergency financial assistance in times of unemployment.
6) The right to unionize to negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safe working conditions.
7) The right to financial security for themselves and their families during retirement years.
8) The right to quality, affordable health care and prescription drugs.
9) The right to clean air through robust environmental and public health policies.
10) The right to high-quality, affordable, and reliable childcare.
11) The right to accessible, affordable, safe housing.
12) The right to safe, clean, and affordable water and wastewater services.
13) The right to affordable, reliable energy service.
14) The right to equitable access to technology and telephone and broadband services.
15) The right to adequate access to affordable and nutritious foods.
16) The right to reliable, efficient, and affordable public transportation.
17) The right to high-quality, equitable PreK-12 public education.
18) The right to safe public schools that promote racial and socioeconomic diversity.
19) The right to access affordable higher education, registered apprenticeships, and other vocational training opportunities.
20) The right to live with their families and not be separated from each other on the basis of poverty.
21) The right to safe neighborhoods, where they are protected by law enforcement, not targeted, profiled, harassed, and brutalized.
22) The right to equal treatment in criminal justice settings, free from discrimination.
23) The right to equal representation and participation in democracy through unfettered, unabridged access to the ballot box, accessible polling places, and alternatives to traditional in-person voting, such as early voting and voting by mail.
Original cosponsors for the resolution include Representatives Karen Bass (CA-37); Joyce Beatty (OH-03); André Carson (IN-07); Kathy Castor (FL-14); Jim Cooper (TN-05); Dwight Evans (PA-03); Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29); Al Green (TX-09); Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20); Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30); Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10); Bobby L. Rush (IL-01); Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Terri A. Sewell (AL-07); and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7).
The legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: AAUW California; California Association of Food Banks; California Hunger Action Coalition; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Children’s Defense Fund; Children’s HealthWatch; Equal Rights Advocates; First Focus Campaign for Children; Food Research & Action Center (FRAC); Greater Cleveland Food Bank; Greater Hartford Legal Aid; Law Foundation of Silicon Valley; Maine Equal Justice; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; Mississippi Center for Justice; National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE); National Lawyers Guild - San Francisco Bay Area Chapter; NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty; Ohio Association of Foodbanks; Parent Voices CA; San Francisco-Marin Food Bank; Share Our Strength; St. Anthony's Foundation; Western Center on Law & Poverty; Women’s Foundation California; and Young Invincibles.