The Grand Forks Herald (2/11/2021) recently featured Giving Hearts Day, an annual event through which people in our region contribute to charitable organizations. Sadly, as worthy and welcome as these gifts are, they cannot address the depth of the current need. With an extreme poverty rate in North Dakota of 5% and a fifth of working families living well below the poverty line, struggling families need substantial nutritional and housing support just to get by. Because they are the most vulnerable, the children in these families especially deserve our support.

Nationwide, 42% of adults living with children reported recently that they found it somewhat or very difficult to pay their regular household bills, and 12.3 million adults reported that their households don’t always have enough to eat. In households earning less than $25,000 a year, 38% had insufficient food. These shortages can result in lasting harm to children, both physically and emotionally. Those from impoverished households are also at risk for falling behind in school.

Better nutritional aid and emergency rental assistance are needed. Further, many who are eligible do not get federal housing assistance, thanks to a limited supply of affordable housing. This failing of our infrastructure needs to be addressed. There is hope in sight, however. According to Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan would cut child poverty in half. Forty percent of children now experiencing poverty can be lifted out through the proposed increase in the Child Tax Credit and expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Plan also would help families pay their bills, through continuing unemployment benefits and a $1400 direct payment.

The coronavirus has brought this crisis to center stage, but our longstanding wealth gap has created the conditions for it. I ask Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Representative Kelly Armstrong to help devise a robust plan that addresses the dire needs which undermine our children’s hope for a better future.

Kathleen Ness, Grand Forks