John Horejsi: Time to step up to fight poverty

For Virginia, the Census Bureau recently released preliminary state-level data, statistics indicating an increase in the poverty rate from 10.3 percent to 10.7. Nationwide, the poverty rates jumped to 14.3 percent in 2009 from 13.2 percent in 2008. As reported by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis: “Over 157,000 Virginians have joined the ranks of the poor since the recession began in 2007. In addition, more Virginians lack health insurance. Census estimates indicate that over one million Virginians are currently uninsured.”

These statistics tell us the numbers, providing us what is measurable regarding those in our state and nation who live in poverty, but it does not measure the suffering of those who are poor and vulnerable, and also uninsured. Matters could have been much worse had it not been for the 2009 Recovery Act. The poverty level is most certainly to increase unless the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), one of the programs encompassed in the Recovery Act, is renewed and the tax benefits for low-income families is extended.

The highly successful TANF emergency fund is about to run out. Congress must extend these benefits before Sept. 30 to help those who have been most affected by the recession.

Congress also can make a difference in the lives of the working poor by extending the tax benefits for low-income families. These benefits help keep even more families – already very vulnerable economically stretched families in our communities – from experiencing economic disaster.

Joblessness has had a destructive effect on families, as we all surely know, and will continue to cause harm to the most vulnerable Americans if no action is taken to continue certain programs such as those referenced above. While our economy is in recovery, our elected officials have an opportunity to make a difference, but time is running out.

John Horejsi is the coordinator at the Vienna-based Social Action Linking Together.

augusta free press news