Every Saturday, the Antrim Baptist Church Food Pantry is busy, providing people with needed sustenance. These are my neighbors, trying to make ends meet. Yet who is talking about this? Poverty in New Hampshire is the elephant in the room — clearly visible, but ignored.
Sure, New Hampshire’s poverty is comparatively low, at 6.2 percent, yet in Keene in 2019, almost 3,000 of its 25,000 residents lived in poverty, including children. Over 14 percent in Cheshire County are food insecure, often not knowing where their next meal will come from. And across the Granite State, there is also a severe housing shortage, with many of the lowest income renters “cost-burdened,” paying up to 60 percent of their income every month for rent, often choosing between rent and food. And the rent always eats first.
But a solution is at hand. In March, Congress passed the American Rescue bill with its once-in-a-lifetime anti-poverty measures: making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and therefore available to very low-income families. This measure has already lifted over 9 million children out of poverty, but it expires in January.
Congress also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless and younger workers, so they are not taxed into poverty, providing more resources for food and housing.
Thanks to New Hampshire Reps. Kuster and Pappas, the House has already passed the bill. Now New Hampshire Sens. Shaheen and Hassan have the opportunity to make these tax provisions permanent in the Recovery Bill, and also to ensure that the bill includes at least $90 billion in rental assistance, with the highest possible amount for Housing Choice vouchers while targeting lowest-income households and children.
These provisions can halve child poverty in the U.S., stem the affordable housing crisis, and narrow the racial wealth divide. I urge our senators to hold the course, helping our neighbors across New Hampshire and throughout the U.S. and working toward ending poverty for all.
LUCINDA WINSLOW, Antrim