On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, the Subcommittee on Appropriations for the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing entitled “Reducing Child Poverty.” Seven witnesses gave testimony: Dolores Acevedo-Garci, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Brandeis University, Douglas Besharov, Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, Cheryl Brunson, from the DC Poor People’s Campaign, Autumn Burke, State Assemblywoman for California’s 62nd District, Kathryn Edin, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Irwin Garfinkel, Professor of Contemporary Urban Problems at Columbia University, and Matt Weidinger, a Rowe Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) opened the hearing with a statement where she spoke to the levels of child poverty across the country, addressed the findings of the National Academies of Sciences report, and promoted her bill, the American Family Act (H.R. 1560). She emphasized the levels of child poverty by stating that the number of children in poverty in 2015 was roughly the population of the state of Michigan or 9.6 million children. She went on the say that the number of children in deep poverty equates to the population of New Mexico or 2.1 million children. Additionally, she highlighted that the findings from the National Academies of Sciences Report, entitled A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, showed that it is possible to cut child poverty in half within the next ten years if Congress takes the necessary action today.
Chairwoman DeLauro highlighted the American Family Act (H.R. 1560) that makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, creates an additional young child credit for children under the age of six, and changes the payment structure so that the credit is redistributed on a monthly basis. She predicts that this legislation will cut child poverty by up to 38%, and it will specifically target deep poverty by cutting it half. She ended her opening statement with a quote from Robert Kennedy that states, “I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary, and there are people in distress.”
Seven witnesses went on to give testimony specifically regarding the findings in A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty report, as well as their opinions on how to best reduce child poverty.
Several witnesses noted the racial disparities that exist in child poverty, citing that while 7.9% of white children live in poverty, 21.7% of Hispanic children and 17.8% of black children represent higher rates of poverty for children of color. Many witnesses also cited that the cost of implementing the National Academies’ recommendations on cutting child poverty in half, costs much less than aggregate costs that the U.S. faces due to child poverty every year. Dr. Acevedo-Garcia stated that the estimated costs of child poverty are between $800 million and $1.1 trillion per year. Meanwhile, the most comprehensive of the policy packages outlined in the National Academies report comparatively cost between $90 billion and $110 billion a year.
Ms. Brunson’s statement, as someone with lived experience with poverty, offered a personal narrative. She included in her testimony a quote, “We need to address child poverty, and we must recognize that poor children come from poor families and communities: addressing child poverty means also addressing the poverty that their parents, neighbors, and community are facing.”
A Few Quick Numbers on the National Academies report:
12,266 Report Downloads
32 Media Reports
20 Conference Presentations
12 Congressional Briefings
10 Stakeholder Meetings
5 Presidential Candidate Platforms
3 Introduced Bills