On Thursday, July 2, 2020, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Congresswoman Roybal-Allard and Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) officially dropped the Child Poverty Reduction Act (H.R. 7419/ S. 4115), which commits to cutting child poverty in half in 10 years, just as the pandemic pushes child poverty toward record levels. The legislation also creates national, evidence-based benchmarks and monitoring to hold lawmakers accountable.
Child poverty has remained stubbornly high in the U.S. despite strong employment and economic figures. Before the pandemic, child poverty afflicted nearly 12 million children, or 16 percent — higher than nearly any other industrialized nation. Research from Columbia University predicts that the outbreak and its economic fallout could increase child poverty by as much as 53 percent. Already, 40 percent of mothers with children under 12 reported in April they are struggling to put food on the table.
“There are far too many children living in poverty both in Wisconsin and across our country. We must act now,” said Senator Baldwin. Children of color live in poverty at three times the rate of white children. And just as COVID-19 has taken a greater toll on Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities, the pandemic’s economic impact will disproportionately affect Black, Hispanic, and Native American children.
“Every child in America should have the opportunity to be economically secure. In Pennsylvania, more than 15 percent of children grow up in poverty. This is unacceptable,” stated Senator Casey. “The Child Poverty Reduction Act makes a commitment to cut child poverty in half over the next decade. We must ensure every child has the opportunity to grow and flourish and every child in America should have the freedom to reach her or his full potential.”
“No child in America should have to grow up in poverty, period,” said Senator Brown. “Whether they’re raised in families that are working harder than ever with less and less to show for it, or in overwhelmed and under-funded foster care programs, far too many children are brought up with the odds stacked against them. And systemic racism often reinforces cycles of poverty for Black and Brown children. This legislation is an important step toward ensuring that federal policies and programs actually work to reduce child poverty and promote the health, safety, and economic security for all children.”
Child poverty is a problem with proven solutions. In the 2019 landmark study, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, from the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences offers evidence-based models for cutting child poverty within a decade, suggesting that lawmakers know how to reduce child poverty, they simply lack the will to do so. The Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2020 establishes a framework for building that political will and ensuring progress by committing to cut our national child poverty rate in half within a decade and directing the NAS to report annually on progress toward that goal.
“Child poverty underlies a persistent tangle of inequities in our society,” said Rep. Davis. “Children who grow up poor end up earning less than other children, they suffer significantly greater health risks, encounter more trauma and social conflict, and face greater barriers in education in proportion to the number of years they live in poverty. We need the tools to measure and understand the links behind childhood poverty and long-term outlooks for child development. This legislation will provide the non-partisan, scientific basis for shaping evidence-based programs and policies to level the playing field for all our children.”
CWLA endorsed the Child Poverty Reduction Act along with other members of the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group.