September brings with it the start of many occasions: football season, the beginning of fall and, most important to me, the latest census numbers regarding poverty in the United States.
Unfortunately, the tragedy of poverty continues in America with nearly 47 million Americans living in poverty. It was my hope that these numbers would improve. The fact is the numbers are getting worse. To think that the self-proclaimed greatest nation in the world would allow its citizens to be treated this unfairly is a disaster.
Poverty was my life as I was growing up. I was raised by my grandmother for most of my life. The only income she had was that of a social security check that would barely pay for the apartment we lived in. We received food stamps on the eighth of each month, but by the 28th we were living off pinto beans.
Most summer and fall days you could find me, my grandma and my little brother walking the streets of the south valley picking quelites (greens) from the side of the road just to add flavor to the beans. On other days we would climb into the trees near our apartment and get eggs from the nests. Pigeon eggs, I presume.
Later in life, tax time became significant because that was our Christmas. For most families Dec. 25 brings cheer, gifts and a joyful time. For us as children, it was another day. As children your Christmas joy comes in the form of gifts; our gift didn’t come until the first week of February. That’s when the tax return would come in and we would get a couple toys, a football, basketball and a new pair of shoes.
This is why September now means so much to me. I see the number of people living in poverty and I want to speak for the child living a life like mine and make sure they are getting what they need. I want parents not to worry about how they might feed their children. I want to make sure hard-working people get that tax return so they can fix their car or replace that broken washing machine. And maybe a child gets Christmas in February. I remember what that did for me. How on that day I lit up brighter than any Christmas light.
We must protect the programs that help lift people out of poverty. Tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit lifted more than 8 million people out of poverty last year. I urge you to let your voice be heard. If you are poor, speak loud and without shame, for there is no shame in needing help -- especially the help that comes in the form of tax credits that you’ve earned. These are not handouts, they are well-deserved tax credits that families deserve.
Congress must save key provisions in the EITC and CTC, making hardworking families, not wealthy corporations, the top priority.
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