A Nurse, the Safety Net, and National Discourse

Oct 30, 2013

By Jodie Levin Epstein

This post originally appeared in "Spotlight on Poverty: The Source for News, Ideas, and Action."

This post originally appeared in "Out of the Spotlight." - See more at: http://www.clasp.org/issues/pages?type=poverty_and_opportunity&id=0078#sthash.q9X9AaAz.dpuf
This post originally appeared in "Out of the Spotlight." - See more at: http://www.clasp.org/issues/pages?type=poverty_and_opportunity&id=0078#sthash.q9X9AaAz.dpuf

Tears, tissues, and a standing ovation opened a recent briefing on poverty metrics in Washington, D.C.  The occasion was the release of Half in Ten's latest numbers on reaching the goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years. Chelsey Hagy opened the briefing with her personal story of how she persisted in her goal to become a nurse despite significant hardship. She credited her success to government programs that helped her with a range of expenses, including health care for her special needs son, nursing school costs, and rent subsidies that enabled her young family to keep a roof over their heads. As Hagy recounted her path, she choked on words and dabbed at her eyes. So, too, did some in the audience. 

In sharing her personal experiences, Hagy gave a face to poverty statistics and proof that with essential supports a person can leave poverty behind. 

Can stories like Hagy's, along with the hard data, help move policy solutions across political aisles? After all, poverty strikes families regardless of their party affiliation. Nevertheless, even those who share in common the struggle to make ends meet may well have different ideas about the causes and solutions.

An enormous political divide exists over the role government should play in alleviating poverty and investing in programs that create opportunity. However, recent public statements from self-described conservatives suggests at least the potential for dialogue about the value of safety net programs and human capital investments.

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