"Poor people are the hardest working people in America." This is what Representative Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) told the crowd at the poverty simulation for members of Congress and their senior staff on Tuesday at the Capitol Visitor Center. Catholic Charities USA and Entergy (an energy company that works in AR, LA, MS, and TX) hosted this event that received bipartisan support and was attended by nearly one dozen members of the House.
I had the amazing opportunity to attend as a volunteer representing LSA. I had never experienced a poverty simulation, as a participant or as a volunteer. And while I did listen in on a conference call training session for volunteers and knew that I would play the role of a caseworker at the Department of Social Services, I really had no idea what to expect.
After multiple House members stressed the importance of trying to understand the difficulties that low-income families face, the simulation began. And I quickly learned that I could not help as much I would have liked. Multiple individuals came to me with needs that I did not have the resources to meet or the time to address.
My frustration culminated in the fourth simulated week when Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) came to my "office" desperately looking for help with paying for his utilities. I looked at his file and told him, "I wish I could help, but I just can't." The congressman responded by questioning my sympathy. Did I really wish I could help?
I did. I think most of us do. I know that's what our members at LSA who are combating poverty try to do every single day. But during this simulation I learned not just how hard it is to live in poverty, but how hard it is to assist those living in poverty without the proper resources.
So maybe Rep. Kildee is right about poor people being the hardest working folks in the country. But I have a feeling that those trying to help people living in poverty might just be a close second.
It's hard to believe, but only two weeks remain in my summer 2014 CAPS Fellows tenure here at LSA. The weeks have seemingly flown by, with new happenings popping up for me every day as the Public Policy and Advocacy Fellow. After wrapping up a benchmarking and research project regarding our advocacy social media outreach at the end of June, I revived our advocacy Twitter account and am currently managing our tweets from that platform. So if you are looking to follow the Federal advocacy and policy work of LSA, be sure to give @LSAAdvocacy a follow! In addition to my work with social media, one of the most exciting developments in my work with LSA is tracking a piece of legislation - which actually has the potential to pass this summer
I began the summer following the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act (H.R. 4058), which passed the House in late May and was then introduced in the House. But on June 26th, a new bill addressing this topic was introduced on the House floor, representing a reconciled package of House and Senate bills, including H.R. 4058. The new bill, entitled the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980), addresses several issues including the prevention of domestic child sex trafficking in relation to the child welfare system, the reauthorization and expansion of the adoption incentive program, and improvement to child support. In order to track the bill, I have done research on the legislation, as well as attending coalition meetings to gather information and gauge interest from child welfare organizations in the bill. Human trafficking is an issue of particular of interest to me, after first hearing about the massive scale of modern-day slavery at a gathering of college students in January 2013 called Passion. So needless to say, the opportunity to track a piece of legislation that could have an impact on populations vulnerable to trafficking has been an experience for which I am thankful.
I've been fortunate to attend a variety of coalition gatherings, briefings and other meetings this summer with Bob Francis, LSA's Director of Public Policy and Advocacy. In many ways, my portfolio has mirrored Bob's portfolio this summer, because of LSA's unique position of representing organizations that offer a variety of services and serve many different populations. Because of our members' large footprint in senior and children, youth & family services, I've been able to tag along with Bob to a variety including the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, Washington Policy Council, and even a national board meeting with the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). It has been exciting and educational to sit at so many different tables and hear from different people this summer. Just today, I was able to listen to Sylvia Burwell, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, speak at a briefing on the Affordable Care Act and Marketplace Updates at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Sadly, only a few weeks remain of my time at LSA, so I will be looking to make the most of every moment.