The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

Event Report:: Strengthening Families: Developing a Progressive Agenda that Promotes Family Stability and Cuts Poverty

Senator Cardin opened the event by addressing several questions:

1.    Do we need government programs to help at-risk families?
-absolutely, without government programs, there would be no forward movement
2.   What should the government do?
- There is a moral and economic imperative for action on the government’s behalf
- The government is the only entity that can effectively impact poverty

Cardin then talked about the need to create a credible, bipartisan budget that will involve reductions in domestic spending and facilitate job creation- a budget that promotes economic growth and provides safety nets for families in need. It's essential to make healthcare affordable for everyone. He listed several important kinds of safety net programs.

- Unemployment Insurance (we’re fighting to maintain it)
- Medicare (House budget would raise costs for seniors)
- Medicaid (House would turn it into a block-grant program)
- Pell Grants (How much will we give, college education is key in economic prosperity)
- Head Start (Limiting the number of students)

Peter Edelman, a law professor from Georgetown University, then talked about the fact that many of these challenges we face are outside the realm of a political conversation. (Struggles involved with building and maintaining strong and healthy communities.)  Family stability and family formation are extremely important and need to be a part of the conversation.

Racquel Russell, White House Domestic Policy Council, talked about her work on the mobility and opportunity team on promoting economic opportunity for low income families. She briefly mentioned the importance of advocating for certain women’s issues, safety net issues, and issues with children (i.e. obesity, nutrition).

Lisalyn Jacobs, VP for Government Relations, Legal Momentum, raised the issue of how food stamps, HUD and other safety net programs do not get families above the poverty line.  State governments create barriers to these things (having to pay for the required drug tests that qualify you for certain program benefits). She talked a lot about TANF and how it’s sort of a regressive program. It becomes necessary to make those on the poverty line a part of this conversation, so the program can allow people to become self-sustaining.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Advisor, LGBT Policy and Racial Justice, Center for American Progress, reviewed some statistics that revealed that gay couples are more likely to live in poverty than straight couples and that 1 in 5 children of gay parents live in poverty. She highlighted how systemic discrimination cripples gay parents by denying jobs (children suffer), employee discrimination (The majority of states can still fire someone based on orientation), and denying legal recognition (unable to access safeguards allotted heterosexual couples). She continued, discussing the importance of equalizing these policies because we all have the same goal of strengthening families, regardless of their makeup.

By Brad Sickels, SPSSI Administrative Assistant

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