Why can’t a rich nation help its most needy?


May 2, 2022

Editor’s note: Josette Sousa is a resident of Arlington, Virginia. This article originally appeared in the Arlington Sun Gazette on Thursday, April 28.

By Josette Sousa
I find it deeply concerning to see the conversation in Congress lose steam about provisions to help people who have fallen below the poverty line.

We are a nation filled with innovations, resources and wealth – there is just no excuse for not taking care of people who are working hard and trying to get by.

For one, it’s not just “the poor” who are being penalized by the lack of foresight, it’s also their children.

I personally grew up in poverty and almost never had enough to eat.

Sometimes my school lunch was the only thing I had to eat all day. While it still hurts to think about the times I had to ask, I am so grateful my classmates were willing to share their leftovers with me. I feel with my entire being for children who might not have friends with extra food – or access to free lunches.

The thing that haunts me is that my mother also grew up poor and with little to eat. She was a hungry kid who became a hungry adult who gave birth to a daughter so malnourished that she nearly died – in one of the wealthiest countries in the world!

My mother was so weak with hunger during her pregnancy with my older sister that my sister arrived four months early. If it weren’t for Medicaid, my sister would not have received the life-saving medical attention she desperately needed and would have died in the hospital.

My sister is now a thriving adult, as am I. We were fortunate to have teachers who saw something in us when we were in school. Those same teachers reached into their own pockets and helped us pay for college applications, Advanced Placement books and exams, and to travel to visit different colleges. We were able to get our college educations because of Pell grants and the generosity of our high-school teachers. Now we are happy, successful adults with engaging careers.

There are a number of programs currently under consideration that would help children whose childhoods resemble mine. These include the child tax credit, which gives families an extra $250 to $300 per month, as well as expanding access to Medicaid and keeping Affordable Care Act health premiums low. Similar legislation could ensure affordable school lunches, as well as access to Pell grants.

I ask the entire Virginia delegation to step up and show real leadership for their constituents. Americans are needlessly suffering when the solution is clear and available.

health care
nutrition assistance