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Connolly, Davis, Lee, Roybal-Allard Lead Effort to Cut Child Poverty in Half in 10 Years

On March 9, 2021, as the House prepares to pass the American Rescue Plan that includes policies to reduce child poverty, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Congressman Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) introduced the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2021 to commit the nation to cutting child poverty by half in 10 years and to implement an accountability framework to ensure we achieve this goal.   

Prior to the pandemic, child poverty rates in our nation constituted a moral emergency with approximately 16% of our children – or 11.9 million – living in poverty in 2018, withroughly half of these children living in extreme poverty.  Due to our country’s long history of systematic racism, poverty rates for children of color are nearly three times that of white children.  In 2018, approximately one-third of Black children (30.1%), one-third of American Indian/Alaska Native children (29.1%), one-quarter of Latinx children (23.7%), and over one-ninth (11.4%) of Asian American Pacific Islander children lived in poverty compared to under one-tenth (8.9%) of white children. 

The pandemic and resulting economic crisis have only exacerbated the child poverty crisis. At least 2.5 million children are newly living in poverty.  Data from the Census Pulse Survey suggest that nearly 10 million children lived in a family where at least one adult did not have paid work due to unemployment or the pandemic, and between 7 and 11 million children live in households where children did not have enough to eat. The injustice of high child poverty rates in our nation is magnified by the tremendous suffering poverty inflicts on our youth, families, communities.  Children who grow up in poverty experience greater health and emotional problems as well as poorer academic and economic success compared to their more affluent peers.  Impoverished communities endure high rates of unemployment, health problems, crime, and economic hardship than more affluent communities.

The Child Poverty Reduction Act commits the federal government to cutting child poverty in half within the decade.  The United Kingdom and Canada both successfully used poverty reduction targets to implement critical policies that halved child poverty.  In addition, the bill charges the executive branch with monitoring our progress in meeting the target and directs the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences with analyzing how federal policies contributed to poverty reduction each year. Examining our success in real-time will inform our policies during the pandemic. If our policies fail to diminish child poverty, we need to do more. If our policies succeed in reducing poverty, then we stay the course. 

“We live in the wealthiest nation in the world,” said Rep. Davis.  “It is inexcusable and unacceptable for so many of our children to be condemned to grow up in America under these conditions. Including this bill in our coronavirus response will prioritize alleviating child poverty and ensure our success.  Without continuous monitoring of child poverty during this crisis and recovery, we risk irreparable harm to our youngest children, especially children of color.

“Our country is facing a child poverty crisis on top of a public health crisis,” said Rep. Lee, Co-Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. “No family should have to choose between keeping a roof over their child’s head and putting food on the table, but for far too many this is the reality. We must address the child poverty crisis exacerbated by this pandemic and dismantle the systemic barriers that have long kept children and their families trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder. The Child Poverty Reduction Act is an important step in safeguarding the future and well-being of children across our country.” 

“Child poverty remains a devastating reality for an unacceptable number of children in the United States,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “No child should grow up in poverty, no matter where they live, where they come from, or who they are. I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Child Poverty Reduction Act to help implement an evidence-based approach coordinated at the federal, state, and local levels to prevent future generations of American youth from needing to endure the hunger, fear, and despair they face when living in poverty."

“As the former Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I experienced firsthand the vast power that can be unleashed when a local government combines clear goals, measurable metrics, and a dedicated workforce. Our legislation applies the same principles at the Federal level," Congressman Connolly said. "Such an approach could reduce America’s outrageously high child poverty rate over the next decade through implementation of a national plan with clear strategic goals, metrics, and evidence-based policies.”

“It is completely unacceptable that children are living in poverty in the richest country in the world,” said Senator Casey. “Children living in poverty are at greater risk of behavioral and emotional problems and poverty has also been shown to adversely affect academic and health outcomes of children, especially during early childhood. With more than 15 percent in children in Pennsylvania living in poverty, the Child Poverty Reduction Act is a critical tool to help improve economic stability and security for children and their families. We must ensure every child in Pennsylvania, and across the country, has the opportunity to flourish and the freedom to reach their full potential.”

The Child Poverty Reduction Act also is championed by Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and is supported by over 160 organizations, including the following:   American Academy of Pediatrics; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Child Welfare League of America (CWLA); Children’s Home & Aid; Families USA; First Focus Campaign for Children; National Association of Counties (NACo); Prevention Child Abuse Illinois; Save the Children Action Network; Shriver Center on Poverty Law; United Way Worldwide; Voices for Adoption; and ZERO TO THREE.

Organizational Quotations:

“In America today, far too many children face food and housing insecurity and lack access to basic necessities which means our children are left behind. It is a stain on our humanity that requires our immediate action to root out systemic inequities and set a long overdue goal to reduce child poverty. The Child Poverty Reduction Act does just that by committing the United States to a child poverty reduction target and marshalling the research and expertise necessary to meet it.” - Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

“The Child Welfare League of America supports the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2021 legislation, which would create a target for poverty reduction in the United States, leading to equitable and evidence-based solutions for all children and their families. Strategies that reduce child poverty, strengthen families, prevent family separation, and reduce children's removal to out-of-home care.” Christine James-Brown, CEO & President of CWLA  

“Creating a national target to dramatically cut child poverty is a tool that has worked in other countries and that we used for our nation’s senior citizens. Our children deserve the same,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley in advance of the bill’s re-introduction. “We applaud Rep. Davis and Sen. Casey for their persistence in continuing to champion the Child Poverty Reduction Act and look forward to the day that all of America’s children have the opportunity to live happy, healthy, successful lives.” 

“Counties are critical partners in the effort to combat and prevent child poverty,” said Matthew Chase, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties (NACo).  “The Child Reduction Poverty Act will help federal, state and county governments make meaningful progress in our work to tackle child poverty by creating a shared national goal of reducing child poverty by 50 percent in 10 years, supporting continued research and enhancing coordination.”

“Childhood poverty continues to be a shameful, needlessly persistent obstacle to success for many of our nation's children,” said Rev. Douglas Greenway, President and CEO of the National WIC Association. “Millions of families struggle to afford the nutritious foods needed to support their children's growth. Family income inequity hinders children before their life can even begin. The Child Poverty Reduction Act aims to tackle these issues and many others head-on with innovative ideas that center our children's needs first. We are grateful to Rep. Davis and Sen. Casey for their leadership in advocating for this legislation. We look forward to the day when all children in America will be able to dream of a future without limits.”

“Kids are our future. When children succeed, so do we as a nation. Therefore, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) applauds Representatives Davis and Casey for their dedication to combatting child poverty through the introduction of the Child Poverty Reduction Act,” said SCAN Director of Federal Government Relations, Roy Chrobocinski. “This legislation will work to ensure that children – no matter the circumstances they are born into – will have the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive.”

"Young children develop in the context of their environments, where financial stability and supportive relationships nurture growth. Though we know that the ability to meet basic needs and boosting economic security can make all the difference, opportunities to thrive are not shared equally, because of past and present barriers to resources,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, Ph.D., Chief Policy Officer at ZERO TO THREE. “We applaud our Members of Congress who reintroduced the Child Poverty Reduction Act, which would address our country’s unconscionable child poverty rate and mitigate the pernicious effects that poverty can have on a baby’s developing brain, both now and in the future.” 

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