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MD Anti-Poverty Expert: Pandemic Highlights Neglect of Poor

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More Marylanders are turning to food banks as poverty increases during the pandemic. (Maryland Food Bank)
More Marylanders are turning to food banks as poverty increases during the pandemic. (Maryland Food Bank)
November 12, 2020

BALTIMORE -- A Maryland author and leader of a national anti-poverty group is challenging U.S. leaders to tackle social inequities spotlighted this year during the coronavirus pandemic and protests against policing.

Wes Moore, author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, noted that COVID-19 disproportionately hit Black and Brown communities, plunging already struggling families deeper into poverty.

He pointed out before COVID, 23% of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic already were living in poverty. Families who live with food insecurity, lack of health care, crumbling schools and lack of internet access are even worse off now, he added.

"Poverty doesn't discriminate how it shows itself," Moore observed. "It shows itself in every single way. And therefore, that's how we have to think about this idea of creating economic opportunity for people, to be able to make sure that it's not just eliminating one facet of the way poverty shows itself, but eliminating every facet."

Now that the 2020 election is over, anti-poverty fighters are pushing Congress to pass a new stimulus package to at least get folks through this pandemic-related downturn.

Moore spoke at an AARP-sponsored event in Baltimore this week; it's now posted on AARP Maryland's Facebook page.

Moore contended we also need to have conversations around race and policing, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

Before George Floyd's death this summer, Baltimore faced widespread protests in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police.

Moore said we expect too much of police to handle everything from a mental-health crisis to a drug overdose.

"The first question becomes, should we then think about what other services and supports exist within our society that in certain cases can take a lead on things that we don't necessarily need to have law enforcement taking a lead on," Moore asserted. "Because oftentimes, the cases that people are being called in for are not law enforcement."

Even before the pandemic, the poverty rate in Montgomery County, Maryland's largest jurisdiction, rose from 6.9% in 2018 to 7.4% in 2019, according to the U.S. Census.

The study also showed 13.6% of Black Marylanders, more than 236,000 people, are living below the poverty line.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD