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The Working Poor Are Becoming Homeless and Congress’ Response: Defund The ACA

Homeless manToday the New York Times posted an article “In New York, Having a Job, or 2, Doesn’t Mean Having a Home” and if you have not already read it, you should.  It tells the stories of people who work in NYC and are forced to live in a homeless shelter.

“On many days, Alpha Manzueta gets off from one job at 7 a.m., only to start her second at noon. In between she goes to a place she’s called home for the last three years — a homeless shelter.”

This truly depressing story is about the working poor.  The working poor are those who have a job (or as the article highlights two jobs) and still are below the poverty level.  This is a huge problem.  In NYC over 50,000 people call a homeless shelter their home.

“More than one out of four families in shelters, 28 percent, include at least one employed adult, city figures show, and 16 percent of single adults in shelters hold jobs.”

This is just another example of how low wage jobs do not provide enough for people to actually live.

“A one-bedroom in East New York or the South Bronx is still $1,000 a month,” said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst with the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy and housing services group. “The jobs aren’t enough to get people out of homelessness.”

New York City is not alone when it comes to working poor.  There is not one state in the entire country where a low-wage worker can afford a two bedroom apartment working 40 hours a week.  In many states a low-wage worker needs to work over 100 hours a week to afford an apartment.

Yesterday the Census Bureau released their latest finding that over 15% of all Americans are living in poverty.  MSNBC reported, “46.5 million Americans—including 16.1 million children—remain impoverished, half a decade into the post-recession economic recovery.”  Bloomberg reported, “almost 22 percent of Americans under age 18 were in poverty in 2012.” (“The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2012 was $23,283, according to the report.”)

It gets even worse.  The website American Prospect reported, “median incomes have fallen in the last ten years by more than 11 percent.”  The middle class is shrinking and workers are loosing ground every year.  “Altogether, from 2000 to 2012, median income for non-elderly households fell from $64,843 to $57,353, a decline of $7,490, or 11.6 percent.”

(See Senator Bernie Sanders talk about the Census report on the Senate floor)

Why are more people not outraged that over one-tenth of the people living in America are living in poverty? We should be screaming at our legislators to create policy to help these people lift themselves out of poverty by increasing the federal minimum wage.  Instead they are work to repeal Obamacare and cut SNAP programs.

With all of its faults, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is already showing signs of progress when it comes to helping the uninsured.  “The percentage of people without health insurance dropped to 15.4 percent from 15.7 percent in 2011. It was the second straight year of improvement in coverage. The health law, which will also expand state-run Medicaid programs for the poor starting Jan. 1, is projected to extend coverage to at least 25 million uninsured by 2016, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.”

Even today the US House is pushing to cut funding for the ACA by threatening to shut the government down.  Roll Call is reporting that Speaker Boehner will tie the defunding of Obamacare to the ‘Continuing Resolution’ to keep the government open.  For those who do not speak Congressional jargon this means that Boehner and his buddies are putting forward a bill (a Continuing Resolution) to fund the government.  They need a Continuing Resolution because they cannot pass a budget and they need to have some type of operating budget by Oct 1st, the beginning of the fiscal year.  They then amended this Continuing Resolution to include funding for everything in the government except for the ACA.

Simply put, pass the bill to defund the ACA or we will shut the government down.

At the same time Congress is debating cutting more funding for low-income families in the SNAP program.   Congresswoman Annie Kuster spoke out against these cuts on the floor of the US House.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart because this body will soon consider a bill that would cut 4 million children from their nutrition benefits.”

So lets recap, one out of every ten American adults and one in four American children are currently living in poverty.  Minimum wage workers are falling into homelessness.  Republicans want to cut supplemental nutrition programs to 4 million impoverished children.  All because they want to end the Affordable Care Act and get our financial house in order.

Where is minimum wage increase?  Where are the jobs bills?  What are they really doing to help the working poor who are spend 10-14 hours a day working only to live in complete poverty?

Their answer to these questions and everything else is to hold another vote to end the ACA.   They must think something is going to change with lucky number 42.

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About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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