Let’s Talk About Us, Not Them!
Featured in a recent New York Times article, Anique Houpe, is a single mother of two boys in suburban Atlanta. Before the pandemic, she was worked as a letter carrier, had a side hustle as a caterer and had just moved into a rent-to-own home in Stone Mountain, Ga. She thought she was on the way to a better life for her and her boys.
COVID-19 changed it all.
The boys’ schools closed, and their grades drop with distance learning. Houpe decided to stay home, hoping to help them academically and save their grades. She was denied unemployment, utilities were turned off, food was scarce and an eviction notice was affixed to her door.
She is just one example of many, many more Americans—more than we care to count—who are taking difficult financial hits because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bit of help may be on the way for Houpe and others. Not only does the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved by the Senate over the weekend include $1400 stimulus payments, it also includes an expansion of the child tax credit. The measure promises $3600 for children five and under and $3000 for older children up to age 17. The credit is expanded to cover all children regardless of how little their families earn. Experts say this bill alone will help lift 13 million Americans out of poverty and cut poverty in America by one-third.
Ah, poverty…in America. That reminds us why we are filing the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in the “We Could Care Less” folder. In 2019, more than 34 million Americans lived in poverty. To be sure, the financial havoc caused by COVID-19 only exacerbated that statistic.
According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of adults with lower incomes say they have had trouble paying their bills, and 32 percent have had problems paying their rent or mortgage since February 2020. Also, a third of Americans say they have used money from a savings or retirement account to pay their bills since the outbreak.
So while it might have been nice to waste two hours on Oprah’s interview with the exiled royals and the juicy claims of racism, betrayal and so on, we really don’t have the time or the energy. How about spending two hours calling elected leaders at all levels and demanding action NOW on increasing the minimum wage, expanding access to healthcare, housing affordability, expanded voting rights, student loan forgiveness and other measures that would lift more Americans out of poverty and place them in a position to improve their quality of life.
Don’t misunderstand us. We applaud Meghan and Harry’s decision to chart their own course. And we even get the desire momentarily abandon the stresses of our own lives through entertainment or by getting all up in other folks’ business. But do we really have time for that? Or should we be working on more important matters. Hello!!! There were 34 million American living in poverty pre-pandemic, and the racist British press had nothing to do with that.
Think about it. If this one bill has the ability to lift 13 million Americans out of poverty, imagine what could be done if members of Congress, state legislatures and local municipalities across the country rolled up their sleeves and got to work for real on behalf of the American people.
Some 17. 1 million people watched Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan. They heard Harry say that Meghan saved him. And that’s nice. We really do wish them the best. But together, they are worth $50 million. That means there is no times spent choosing between medicine and lights bills or groceries and car insurance for the duo.
In the meantime, COVID-19 has pushed an estimated 150 million more people world wide into poverty. So enough of this mindless preoccupation with things and people that don’t solve our problems or address our needs.
Tens of millions of Americans need saving— real saving, real help, real attention. They need living wages, quality, affordable housing, access to healthcare and equity in public education that helps drive real opportunity.
So enough of Harry and Meghan. Let’s talk about us!