Marian Wright Edelman Tells House Budget Committee Low-Income Families Must Have Necessary Supports to Make it in the Workforce

Aug 01, 2001, 01:00 ET from Children's Defense Fund

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Children's Defense Fund founder and
 president Marian Wright Edelman testified before the House Budget Committee
 today on the challenges facing working families in America as they struggle to
 make ends meet.  The discussion focused on the effects current public policy
 has had on the status of low-income Americans.  Mrs. Edelman told the
 committee that we must do more to support low-income working families because
 without stable child care and transportation to get to their jobs, parents
 trying to stay off welfare risk unemployment and further hardships.
     "We have nothing to be proud of," said Edelman. "One in six children in
 the United States -- 12.1 million -- still live in poverty.  In fact, children
 are more likely to be poor today in this time of unprecedented wealth than
 they were 20 or 30 years ago.  The overall poverty rate in 1999 was almost
 three percent higher than in 1969.  Nearly 11 million children are without
 health insurance, 90 percent of whom have working parents.  These are not acts
 of God.  They are our moral and political choices as men and women, citizens
 and leaders."
     The Children's Defense Fund has, for the past four years, conducted a
 community monitoring project to learn about what was happening to families
 leaving welfare.  The report, issued in December 2000, titled, Families
 Struggling to Make it in the Workforce: A Post Welfare Report, analyzed the
 responses of more than 2,000 parents seeking services at emergency shelters,
 food pantries, and other agencies.  We found that:
     *  More than half of those who have left welfare since 1996 did so for a
        job, but one-third no longer had a job;
     *  Lack of child care was the reason most often reported for not working;
     *  Nearly 60 percent of those who were working had family weekly wages
        below the poverty line; and
     *  More than half of the employed parents had been unable to pay the rent,
        buy food, afford medical care, or had their telephone or electric
        service cut off.
     Last week, the Economic Policy Institute released a report that found
 families need an income of at least twice the federal poverty line in order to
 make ends meet.
     Mrs. Edelman told the committee that in the coming months Congress will
 have the opportunity to act on a number of key initiatives included in the Act
 to Leave No Child Behind, comprehensive legislation CDF helped develop and
 introduced into Congress by lead sponsors, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and
 Representative George Miller (D-CA).  She urged members of the committee and
 their colleagues to seize this opportunity and move quickly on a positive
 agenda to build a more just and compassionate society -- one where no child is
 left behind.
     "We cannot simply make modest efforts to improve the lives of these
 children and families.  We did not pass a modest tax cut!" declared Edelman.
 "We must make significant efforts to lift children and their families out of
 poverty.  We have the know-how, the experience, the tools, and resources to
 end child poverty and suffering.  And we have the responsibility as mothers,
 fathers, grandparents, and concerned and sensible citizens to act now."
     For more information about the hearing or the Act to Leave No Child
 Behind, contact CDF Press Secretary, Gigi Hinton, at 202-662-3609.
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SOURCE Children's Defense Fund