LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
National Office - Chicago, Illinois
Mr Floyd Davis V,P
APRIL- 01- 2011
President of the United States of America
Barack H. Obama
Dear President Barack Obama:
Congratulations on your historic and unprecedented presidential victory. We at the Poor People’s Campaign are proud of you and our nation, and hope your presidency will be as successful as your campaign. Mr. President, as you may know, from 1965 and 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King JR brought his brilliant organizing insights to what many people called the slums of Chicago to confront the evils of a number of slum lords. Dr. King moved his own family into a rundown housing unit in Chicago’s Lawndale community (renamed “Slumdale” at the time by its residents), where they endured for a time the harrowing poverty, squalor, and overcrowding that other slum residents had endured for decades. The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc; is proud to continue that movement.
I write you in the spirit of Martin Luther King who once said, “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”
As you know, Millions of poor Americans are struggling to find adequate food, health care and housing for their families. Unable to earn a living wage, many have resorted to food banks and community centers for help.
are poor and the number living in “deep poverty,” with incomes below half of the poverty line.
Because this recession is likely to be deep and the government safety net for very poor families who lack jobs has weakened significantly in recent years, increases in deep poverty in this recession are likely to be severe. There are a series of steps that federal and state policymakers could take to soften the recession’s harshest impacts and limit the extent of the increases in deep poverty, destitution, and homelessness.”
The Poor People’s Campaign is extremely appreciative of your administration’s decision to implement many of the recommendations found in The Center for Policy Priorities regarding a “stimulus package” to ameliorate the harshest effects of the downturn on the poor.
As Sharon Parrott stated in her report
, and I know you realize, “Already there are signs that the recession is hitting low-income Americans hard. Between September 2006 and October 2008, the unemployment rate for workers age 25 and over who lack a high school diploma — a heavily low-income group — increased from 6.3 percent to 10.3 percent. Yet low-income workers who lose their jobs are less likely to qualify for unemployment benefits than higher-income workers, due to eligibility rules in place in many states that deny benefits to individuals who worked part time or did not earn enough over a "base period" that often excludes workers' most recent employment.
As another sign that poverty is now climbing rapidly, food stamp caseloads have increased dramatically in recent months, rising by 2.6 million people or 9.6 percent between August 2007 and August 2008, the latest month for which data are available. In 25 states, at least one in every five children is receiving food stamps. Because monthly food stamp caseload data are available long before the official Census poverty data for the prior calendar year, rising food stamp caseloads are the best early warning sign of growing poverty.
Furthermore, the nation’s basic cash assistance safety net for very poor people who are jobless is much weaker and less well equipped to meet the challenges that a serious economic downturn poses than it was in previous major recessions. The biggest changes in that safety net have resulted from changes in public assistance policies at both federal and state levels. As a result of changes in such policies, basic cash assistance reaches many fewer poor families with children than in the recessions of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Today, only about 40 percent of families eligible for cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program actually receive it. That is about half the percentage of families eligible for TANF’s predecessor (the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program) that received its benefits during the recessions of earlier decades.
In addition, those poor unemployed individuals not raising minor children who don’t qualify for unemployment insurance no longer are eligible for any type of cash assistance. State general assistance programs — formerly the safety net of last resort for this group of people — were largely eliminated across the country in the late 1980s and early 1990s (except for programs for people with disabilities). Many of these individuals cannot even qualify for food stamps; in most parts of the country, jobless people aged 18-50 not raising minor children are restricted to three months of food stamps out of every three-year period. As a result, there is a substantial population of individuals for whom there is little or no safety net at all. That population will grow much larger in the next year or two.”
Mr. President, you have already implemented much of the recommendations outlined in the Center for Budget Priorities, including:
- Providing a temporary increase in food stamp benefits.
- Providing Additional rental assistance through the housing voucher program
- Expanding and extending unemployment benefits.
- Providing significant fiscal relief to states.
The Poor People’s Campaign supports your efforts and we look forward to working with you and your administration to address poverty in America’s communities. We would be appreciative if you would direct you Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Labor and Secretary Commerce to include the Poor People’s Campaign, Inc. in future Federal planning efforts in which you want direct nonprofit and citizen participation. We look forward to working with your administration in addressing issues of poverty in America.
Mr Jerry L Robinson, President .CEO
The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc.
Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Department of Commerce, Secretary-designate: Gary F. Locke
Department of Labor, Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Shaun L.S. Donovan
Department of Education, Secretary Arne Duncan
The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc; is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization that serves poor people of Chicago. The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc.'s goal is to alleviate poverty in its home base of Chicago with the goal of expanding nationally to serve all poor people of the United States of America.