Fighting the War on Poverty

Editorial by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera.
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. Although measures have been taken to help quell the burden of poverty, more must be done to eliminate the financial hardships faced by many New Jersey families who are living below the poverty line.

As the U.S. economy struggles to recover, it is the families who have fallen into poverty that are the hardest hit. The obstacle of poverty impedes upon a person’s ability to reach their full potential. Poverty is much like a disease, spreading aggressively and malevolently through our communities. However, this disease is treatable, and the cure is “willingness.”

It is our willingness to extend a helping hand to those in our community affected by the crippling hand of poverty. It is the willingness of our leaders at all levels of government to implement policies that will lift citizens out of economic despair. And it is the willingness of all of us to acknowledge that all men, women, and children living in poverty are our brothers and sisters — and as such we share an obligation to help.

Some may ask, “Why should I care?” claiming that it is not their responsibility to bail out the poor, and that providing those in poverty with a safety net will only make them dependent. Well, to these individuals, I say: Any one of us is just one incident, one grievous accident, away from losing it all. It takes only one catastrophic event in our life to catapult any of us into poverty.

Today, more than 2.7 million New Jersey residents live at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, 780,000 of whom are children. And while many of the men and women have a full-time job or multiple part-time jobs, they still struggle to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s head.

This is why we must support policies that put our families first. Measures must be taken that ensure that no child goes hungry and that our brothers and sisters are not forced to live out on the street. Common-sense solutions must be implemented to help prevent our neighbors from slipping into poverty and help lift those who have already fallen into financial hardship.

In New Jersey, we have made great strides in reducing the financial burden of our lower income families by raising the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, but more must be done. We must promote policies that focus on helping the families of our state.

To help reduce the number on families below the poverty line in New Jersey, we must fight for legislation to help our residents get back to work. Although the unemployment rate continues to decrease in our state, we must do more to get our unemployed residents back into the work force.

We need to invest in policies that provide education and job training to help the unemployed find work but also to help workers qualify for higher paying jobs. Also, with New Jersey’s high cost of living, we must offer our low-income families options for affordable housing.

More remains to be done to help New Jersey’s families and families across the nation escape the grips of poverty. I will continue to fight for legislation that will provide poverty stricken families the means to climb out of poverty and prevent others on the brink of poverty from falling into financial ruin. We all must reach into our hearts and lend a helping hand, because sometimes all it takes is a little compassion to lift someone up in a time of need.

(This editorial has been published in the South Jersey Times & New Jersey Newsroom)