Letter | It’s time to do something about poverty other than study it

We read news reports that Gov. Tim Kaine appointed Arlington State Del. David Englin to yet another commission to study poverty in Virginia. While we certainly welcome that the governor’s and the General Assembly’s desire to measure the extent of poverty in Arlington and Virginia, we’re puzzled by the call to “study” what census data and other readily available information already make clear — significant levels of poverty and hunger exist statewide and in Arlington.

It’s time for Virginia Democrats and Republicans, including Kaine and Englin, to change state laws and policies that would actually reduce poverty rather than wasting time and resources trying to “measure” it.

Researchers and advocates for the poor already highlight the steps that would greatly reduce poverty and hunger in Arlington and in far southwestern Virginia:

1. Raise the Virginia minimum wage of $6.55 an hour to the living wage rate of $12.50 an hour (which is based on the federal poverty level for a family of four).

2. Lower the regressive Virginia 9-percent effective tax rate on people making less than $20,000 a year (those making over $200,000 pay only 4 percent).

3. Raise the miserly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance provided to children ($80 a month), and the disabled, and stop the State of Virginia from using federal TANF funds designed to go to the poor for other state programs, such as highways.

4. Finally, eliminate laws and restrictions that deny unemployment compensation and food stamps to Virginia’s working poor and unemployed.

The Democrats and Republicans (each for different reasons) wish to divert the public’s attention away from concrete steps that would directly reduce poverty and hunger in our state that largely affect children, the working poor, the elderly, and the disabled. The time to study poverty is past; it is time to make Virginia laws and policies work to relieve poverty and hunger, and give our friends and neighbors a helping hand.


– Letter from John Reeder, Josh Ruebner, Suzanne Sundburg

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