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As Congress argues about the cost of the Build Back Better plan, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival met with U.S. House and White House representatives on Tuesday.

The meetings came before faith leaders and economists stood with essential, low-wage women representing the 140 million people who were poor or low-income before COVID-19 at a news conference at 9:30 a.m. ET on the House side of the U.S. Capitol.

“It’s shameful that Congress is arguing over a $3.5 trillion bill paid over 10 years when billionaires’ wealth increased by $2 trillion in the first year of the pandemic and we spent $21 trillion over the past 20 years on militarism,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. 

“We must put a face on the provisions of this bill and say, this is who hurts when you cut back on the child tax credit, and this is whose life is upended if they can’t get lower prices for prescription drugs and health care and whose life is ruined if we don’t deal with the climate crisis now.”

poor people build back better

Poor People’s Campaign delivers petitions to Congressmembers

After the news conference, the delegation from the Poor People’s Campaign took letters and petitions signed by thousands of people to the offices of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy; Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Sens. Bernie Sanders, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

They also visited the offices of representatives of the essential, low-wage women who spoke at the conference.

The $3.5 trillion version of the Build Back Better plan  — $350 billion each year for 10 years — includes provisions for paid family and medical leave; Medicare expansion; lower prescription drug costs and to combat climate change, among others.

Women “hit first and worst” by economic crisis

  • Pam Garrison, a tri-chair of the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign and lifelong low-wage worker. 
  • Faith Lee, a gig worker and DoorDash driver from Silver Spring, Maryland. 
  • Marcela Ramirez, a produce packer from Philadelphia 
  • Emilee Johnson of Pearl, Mississippi, a low-wage worker and advocate for victims of human trafficking. 
  • Adriel Downing of Lexington, Kentucky, a game-day employee at the University of Kentucky. 
  • Katrina Corbell, a low-wage worker on disability from New York
  • Kaylen Marie Barker of West Virginia, a low-wage worker
  • Joan Steede of Phoenix, a home care worker. 

Women have been hit first and worst by the economic crisis that COVID-19 set off as female-dominated industries like retail, leisure, and hospitality were decimated,” Rev. Theoharis said. “By stripping the provisions in the Build Back Better plan that will help women, Manchin and Sinema are sending the resounding message that women’s work is not important and not valued. Let’s be clear — there is no recovery from this global pandemic without ensuring women have the protections they need.”

The White House and Democrats in the House and Senate are trying to get the Build Back Better act passed as a reconciliation bill so that it can’t be blocked by the filibuster, which would require 60 votes to pass in the Senate rather than a majority.  They also are insisting that Congress vote on the Build Back Better plan before voting on infrastructure and voting rights.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that he intends to hold a vote on Build Back Better and infrastructure by the end of October.

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