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Congress Fails to Help Poor Americans in 2014

Eighth Annual Poverty Scorecard Benchmarks Congress’ Efforts to Fight Poverty

EMBARGOED UNTIL MARCH 18, 2015
Contact: Michelle Nicolet, 312.368.2675

Despite the economic recovery, 45 million Americans currently live in poverty, and millions more are only one paycheck away from joining them. Congressional action directly affects whether the basic needs of many low-income people will be met. Yet Congress enacted only two bills in 2014 that will significantly improve the lives and opportunities of poor Americans. 

The Shriver Center’s 2014 Poverty Scorecard reports on how each member of Congress voted on the most important poverty-related legislation considered during the session. The votes selected cover a wide range of subject areas important to low-income people, including housing, employment, health care, and education. 

Each member is assigned a letter grade (A+ to F-) based on his or her votes.

“Government has a crucial role to play in advancing justice and opportunity for people living in poverty,” said Shriver Center President John Bouman. “The Poverty Scorecard shines a light on the various issues that contribute to poverty and the actions that our elected representatives can take to improve lives and opportunities.”

Two bills, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which both passed almost unanimously, reauthorized existing programs and include important provisions that will make these programs more responsive to the needs of people living in poverty. 

However many bills advanced in 2014, including attacks on anti-discrimination laws, key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, immigrants, and consumer protections, would have made the lives of people living in poverty worse. Congress also missed opportunities to advance equal pay laws for women, raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, protect workers from wage theft, and improve college accessibility. 

“Too many Americans struggle to keep food on the table, obtain safe and affordable housing, or find work that pays a living wage,” said Dan Lesser, Director of Economic Justice at the Shriver Center. “The Poverty Scorecard allows voters to hold their representatives accountable for their action or inaction to address these issues.”

The report is available at http://povertyscorecard.org.


The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients.


The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients. www.povertylaw.org

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