In poor American economy, help poor children
Government budgets are strained, and they're pushing out poor children. These kids need people with money and clout to advocate for them – people such as corporate lobbyists.
Forgive me if this sounds familiar. Government budgets are strained past the breaking point – if the debt-ceiling debate hasn’t shown that, I don’t know what does. The easiest programs to cut are the “marginal” ones. And, in a sense, they are marginal. They are some of the smallest budget items, and they affect people at the margins of society.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet for the poor children who depend on them, these programs are central to their existence. With 9.1 percent unemployment nationwide and the most desperate economic circumstances in America in 70 years, poor children and families are in need now more than ever.
Let’s make this tough economy unfamiliar to them – different from the past ones. Let’s not make the last people who can afford to lose their benefits the first people to suffer.
As chief executive officer of StandUp for Kids, an organization dedicated to helping homeless children, I see firsthand how dire the recession is for the most vulnerable. It’s in the eyes of the children our volunteers work with, like “Sweetie,” a young woman forced out of an emotionally unstable home, with no safety net, struggling to find food to eat or a safe place to fall asleep.
It’s borne out by the data. The number of children living in StandUp for Kids children’s home in Boston doubled last year.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, there are 15.5 million children in America under the poverty line. These children don’t have a fair shot at life – they’ll mostly likely go from foster care to a poor school to limited job opportunities, and often end their journey in prison.
And yet, the programs designed to prevent this unfortunate outcome are the first to go in a down economy. Take food stamps: 45 million Americans depend on them. The payments are far from lavish – the average payment is about $133 a month. Imagine if you had to do your monthly food shopping on that budget. Yet the Republican budget proposal for next year calls for cutting food stamps by a fifth from 2015. They would turn the program into a “block grant” to states that have far stricter budget contstraints than the federal government.
The depressing list of programs for poor children that face the chopping block goes on. States across the country are passing laws to cap the number of children who can enroll in early childhood education. Housing grants and vouchers are diminishing. Homeless shelters and food banks are scrambling to plug the hole in their budgets where government funding used to be.