We now find ourselves facing one of the worst poverty crises in the history of our country. Today, more than 43 million Americans including 14.7 million children live in poverty. Additionally, the poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010, the highest in 17 years. Meanwhile, more than 48 million Americans struggled at some point in the last year to put food on the table. Too many hardworking Americans find themselves slipping into poverty and or increasingly in need of basic necessities like housing and food.
I have spent my entire career in public service working to support hardworking low-income and middle class families and others including the elderly who tend to do even worse when the economy crumbles. In Congress, I have focused on reforming key government assistance programs to ensure that all Americans have a safety net to support their families and put food on the table. In 2009, legislation I wrote to expand assistance for homeless became law. Because of that, more of our most vulnerable citizens and their families can access vital services.
I am a strong supporter of nutrition programs that have helped many Americans keep food on the table and out of poverty. In addition to access to food, we also need to increase access to quality foods like fruits and vegetables in these programs. I have pushed legislation that would guarantee healthier meals each day for children participating in federal nutrition programs. During reauthorization of the Women Infants & Children and Child Nutrition programs in 2010, I worked with my colleagues to expand the availability of nutritious meals and snacks to children and improve the quality of food served in schools across the country.
I also champion helping those in poverty get educational opportunities to gain skills needed to get work and to help women in poverty escape domestic violence. I have long said domestic violence is a cancer that has infected our society, crossing all ethnic, socioeconomic and party lines. I have introduced a number of bills since coming to Washington to help prosecute abuses, and to make it easier for battered women to get help and find shelter.
I have also written legislation—the RISE (Rewriting to Improve and Secure an Exit Out of Poverty) Act – reauthorizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to make sure that it truly helps give individuals and families the tools they need to transition from poverty. For example, this legislation would guarantee child care is available so recipients can find a job and work without worrying about who is going to look after the kids.
We must continue to break down known barriers and provide families with the support they need and deserve as they work their way out of the grip of poverty, hunger, and this devastating recession.