Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson first introduced legislation known as the “War on Poverty” during his State of the Union address. A series of laws and reforms aimed to combat the 19% poverty rate at the time followed President Johnson’s announcement, including the the Food Stamp Act of 1964 and the Social Security Act of 1965 which established Medicare and Medicaid. Furthermore, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program, now part of AmeriCorps.
While the War on Poverty has led to several important federal and state initiatives to combat hunger and to increase Americans’ overall well-being, there is still work to be done to put an end to poverty. On a national level, the 2010 Census indicated that around 15% of Americans live in poverty. This figure is even higher for New York City, according to the Furman Center Real Estate and Urban Policy’s 2012 report “State of New York City’s Housing & Neighborhoods,” with NYC’s poverty rate remaining stagnant over the past decade near 21%. For Asian Pacific American New Yorkers, the poverty rate is at an extremely alarming 26.5% as mentioned in the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families’ “Growing Numbers, Growing Impact.” According to the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, “Despite the perception of a relatively economically successful AAPI population, a recent National CAPACD report highlights the reality of growing poverty in AAPI communities. In fact, AAPIs are the fastest growing poverty population of any racial/ethnic group since the onset of the Recession, increasing by 45.2 percent from 2007 to 2012.”
“President Johnson had the vision that government played a key role in eliminating poverty in the United States,” said AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui. He added, “I view the fiftieth anniversary of the War on Poverty as a call to action. While we have made tremendous gains in fighting poverty, we have seen political attacks on the very social safety net programs responsible for ‘cutting poverty nearly in half’. With the renewed national synergy on addressing income inequality, AAFE is committed now more than ever before to eliminating poverty in our community.”