Bernie Sanders on Public Assistance
Bernie Sanders is a staunch advocate for public assistance programs that provide necessary support to people who need it.
Social Security: Social Security should be strengthened and expanded.
Affordable Housing: All workers with a full time job should be able to find affordable housing.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF): When families do not have enough money to meet the needs of the family, we must help them so they can stay in their home and remain together.
Nutritional Programs: All Americans must have access to nutritious food, regardless of income or mobility.
Medicaid: Until comprehensive universal healthcare is passed, we must expand and improve the Medicaid program.
Community Health Centers: Increasing the number of community health center is necessary so lower income people can get the healthcare they need in the communities where they live.
Homelessness: We must increase affordable housing and work to reduce homelessness, especially among veterans.
Bernie has released a detailed plan The Right to a Secure Retirement to protect and expand Social Security, protect Pensions, Expand the Older Americans Act, and so much more. He has also released a Housing for All plan that would make it a fundamental right to have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home.
“At a time when over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings and senior poverty is increasing, we should not be talking about cutting Social Security benefits. We should be talking about expanding benefits to make sure that every American can retire with dignity,” – Bernie Sanders, 2015
Social Security is a federal insurance program that is funded by payments that workers contribute from each paycheck as payroll taxes. You see the tax on your paycheck as FICA tax. The money is deposited into a trust fund and invested for future use. We all pay Social Security taxes on up to $132,900 of our income. No Social Security taxes are paid on income above $132,900, so rich people don’t pay Social Security taxes on all of their income taxes like the rest of us. Bernie wants to change that and fix Social Security.
In exchange for these payments, the federal government has set up several programs to help workers when they retire, become unable to work, or die with a surviving spouse or children. In other words, it’s not just for “old people”, it’s an insurance program for workers. The program is divided into SSI for retirement payments and SSDI for disability payments. In 2017, recipients received $806.7 billion in SSI payments and $145.8 billion in SSDI payments.
Why is Social Security important?
Before the Social Security Insurance system became law in 1935, over half of seniors lived in poverty. Today, because of Social Security, that number is less than 10 percent. While employed, all workers contribute to the system by paying a small tax from each paycheck. When workers reach retirement, they receive payments to help support them since they no longer earn wages to pay for their expenses.The original vision was for Social Security to form a “three-legged stool” in combination with company pensions and personal savings.
In recent years, however, the other two legs of the stool have become less reliable. This makes Social Security even more important to allow seniors to retire without becoming destitute.
Yeah, yeah. But can I see a video that explains it with graphics and nice music?
Sure. Here ya’ go: Social Security: Just the Facts
Sounds like there’s a lot at stake.
Quite a bit. Social Security is currently projected to remain solvent until 2033. If we do nothing to put more money into the system, it will pay only 75 percent of promised benefits after 2033. That’s a big deal for workers who will rely solely or primarily Social Security payments after they retire to pay their bills and buy their food. And it matters for people who don’t have a pension from their job or have insufficient savings set aside for retirement.
So, what does Bernie have to say about it?
When Bernie introduced the Social Security Expansion Act, he said,
“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American… The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000 so millionaires and billionaires pay the same share as everyone else.”
What’s in the bill?
The Social Security Expansion Act would:
- Increase Social Security benefits by about $65 a month for most recipients.
- Increase cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients.
- Provide a minimum Social Security benefit to significantly reduce the senior poverty rate.
Bernie’s plan would make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. Currently, the amount of income subject to the payroll tax is capped at $132,900. That means someone making millions of dollars a year pays the same amount in payroll taxes as some making $132,900 a year. The new legislation would expand the payroll tax to cover income over $250,000. Income between $132,900 and $250,000 would not be subject to the payroll tax. This change would not affect most people. In fact, it would only impact only the top 1.5 percent of all wage earners. Bernie also introduced this plan in 2013 called the Keeping our Social Security Promises Act.
The Social Security Trust Funds have $2.8 trillion, which means there’s enough money to pay all promised benefits until 2033. Bernie believes that his plan to expand the payroll taxes for Social Security would generate enough revenue to support Social Security payments for the next 52 years.
That makes sense. But what about cost of living increases, won’t that bankrupt the system?
No. Over time, the cost of everything goes up. If you go to the store today, $5 won’t be enough to buy a gallon of milk, a stick of butter, a dozen eggs, a pound of flour, and a pound of sugar to make a birthday cake. But in 1980, you would have gotten some change back. That’s inflation. So Social Security payments need to be increased to deal with inflation and cover costs as prices go up over time. Essentially, that’s what we do now with cost-of-living adjustments, and it works just fine. The money in the Trust Funds are invested in securities that earn modest interest, which covers most of the cost of inflation. Still, in the last few years there has been a lot of talk about changing this to something a lot less fair, that’s what CPI is about.
A chained Consumer Price Index, or CPI, would reduce the amount of Social Security benefits recipients receive each month. Currently, cost-of-living adjustments are calculated using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W. A chained CPI assumes that Social Security recipients will change their spending habits as prices rise and fall. However, most seniors have fixed expenses that can’t be adjusted, like housing. Additionally, seniors spend a large portion of their income on healthcare, which has prices that rise at a faster rate than other goods and services. So, a chained CPI would not help seniors deal better with inflation. Instead, it would lead to lower monthly benefits for recipients.
Where does Bernie have to say about chained CPI?
Bernie has always been against a chained CPI because it would reduce Social Security payments.
In a statement on the floor of the Senate in 2012, Bernie said:
“…some of the folks here want to pass something called a chained CPI, which, if it were imposed –and I will do everything I can to see that it does not get imposed — would mean that between the ages of 65 and 75, a senior would lose about $560 a year, and then when they turn 85 and they’re trying to get by off of $13,000 or $14,000 a year, they would lose about a thousand bucks a year. That’s what some of our colleagues want to do. Virtually all the Republicans want to do it. Some Democrats want to do it as well. As chairman of the defending Social Security caucus, I’m going to do everything that I can to prevent that.”
The full video of his speech can be viewed here:
Bernie believes we cannot continue to ignore the crisis in affordable housing. After the 2008 Financial Crisis, Bernie called the U.S. housing crisis inexcusable, arguing that if we can afford to bail out Wall Street, we can help working families by providing affordable housing.
Housing is too expensive and Bernie understands that, “It is no secret that over the past decade, incomes have not come close to keeping pace with the escalating costs of housing.”
Currently, affordable housing is out of reach for many American families. The U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) recommends that a family pay no more than 30 percent of their income for housing so it can afford other necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. HUD found that 12 million households pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing and that a full-time worker earning the minimum wage “cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.” The National Low Income Housing Coalition found there is no state in the union where a minimum wage worker can spend under 30 percent of their income for a one bedroom apartment based on market prices.
What is Bernie doing to address the lack of affordable housing?
Bernie leads the nation in efforts to provide affordable housing for working families. He knows what it’s like to struggle to pay the bills. And, he has long history of fighting for affordable housing going back to his time as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. His platform includes a comprehensive plan Housing for All which will build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.
In 2018, Bernie held a roundtable discussion about unaffordable housing, gentrification, and discriminatory housing policies, and innovative solutions such as land trusts, non-profit landlord ownership and making publicly-owned land and buildings available for the development of affordable housing.
In 2016, Bernie announced a sweeping Affordable Housing Plan. Bernie is against gentrification, which forces up the cost of housing and drives out families from established neighborhoods with modest rents. Regarding gentrification, Bernie has said, “working people have a right to continue to live in the communities that they love and where they grew up.”
He has offered three ideas to help battle gentrification: housing trust funds, “inclusionary zoning” that requires developers to build some affordable housing in new developments, and rent control for working-class renters. Recently, Bernie supported the Greenville, S.C. housing trust fund as well a California ballot measure that would lift restrictions on rent-control.
In 2008, Bernie fought for the Housing Trust Fund, and continues to support this idea to address a range of housing needs. The plan includes:
- build affordable housing for low and moderate-income people
- build affordable and ADA compliant housing for the disabled
- build, repair or rehabilitate affordable rental units
- assist first-time home buyers
- ease the harmful effects of foreclosures and delinquencies
- revitalize neighborhoods in communities hit hard by foreclosures
In 2006, Bernie voted Yea on a successful House amendment which added $70 million for the Section 8 Housing voucher program to fund an additional 10,000 affordable housing vouchers.
As Mayor of Burlington, Bernie fought to stop landlords from using federal housing grants to convert modest apartments into luxury condos.
John Davis, a former housing aide to Mayor Sanders remembered, “Bernie pounded his fist on the conference table in his office and told the owners, ‘Over my dead body are you going to displace 336 working families. You are not going to convert Northgate into luxury housing’,” To this day, Northgate Apartments is owned by the residents and has long-term restrictions in place to keep the buildings affordable for working families.
As Mayor of Burlington, Bernie worked with a tenant organization and nonprofit housing groups to create the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) and the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) to ensure that housing stayed affordable for working families. CHT received an award from the United Nations in 2009, and the model is spreading to countries like Australia, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. In 2010, Bernie described the success of the CHT as one of his proudest accomplishments as Mayor:
“The Champlain Housing Trust is now the nation’s largest community land trust, with more than 4,000 members and 2,000 affordable homes in northwestern Vermont. The concept has spread: there are now community-based housing trusts covering in every area of Vermont, and they have become the foundation of a unique-in-the-nation affordable housing network.”
At a recent rally in Reno, Nevada, Bernie said, “When I talk about infrastructure, I’ll tell you what else I’m talking about: The need to build millions of new units of affordable housing. All over this country, you have people paying 40, 50, 60 percent of their limited incomes in housing. That is absurd. Let’s put people to work, with good wages, to build the affordable housing this country needs.”
See the Infrastructure page for more information about Bernie’s plan to invest $1 trillion over five years to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to build more low income houses and apartments to help solve the affordable housing crisis.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
Welfare payments, now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), gives short-term financial assistance to families with children when the adults in the household do not earn enough income to provide for the family’s basic needs. The federal government gives grant money to states to run the TANF program.
To receive the TANF grant money, states must spend some of their own dollars on programs for needy families, require TANF recipients to engage in work activities, and reduce or terminate benefits if the work requirements are not met. Most states use a “full-family” sanction policy that terminates benefits to the entire family if a parent fails to meet the work requirements.
Only around 24% of the grant money is actually spent on direct cash assistance to needy families. Much is spent on programs like reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies and promoting two-parent families and tax credits.
Despite the increase in poverty and deep poverty over the last two decades, fewer and fewer families are receiving TANF cash assistance. In 1996, 4.4 million families received help. In 2016, the number fell to 1.36 million families. Over 5.8 million families with children live in poverty. The number of families with children in deep poverty or those living on incomes below half of the poverty line ($10,000/year for a family of 3) is around 2.7 million.
This 2016 chart shows who is receiving TANF benefits.
TANF payments are really quite small as this map shows.
TANF benefits are not a windfall. The families that qualify for TANF payments are the most destitute people in America and the amount received from TANF is so low that it leaves families in deep poverty in nearly all states, as the map below shows:
What has Bernie done to support families who need TANF?
Bernie has boldly reminded us all that the Welfare Reform Act that was pushed through and signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 has more than doubled the number of people living in extreme poverty. It has hurt America’s poorest families.
Bernie discussed the dramatic reduction in assistance to needy families, “In 1994, welfare provided a vital safety net to more than 14 million Americans. Today, it only helps 4.4 million”.
And in 2016 Bernie said, “What welfare reform did, in my view, was go after some of the weakest and most vulnerable people in this country.”
Bernie voted against the Welfare Reform Act in 1996 and has said he wants to repeal it. In 2016, Bernie said, “In my view, we need to repeal the 1996 welfare reform provisions and expand, not weaken, the social safety net.”
In 2003, he voted against the Welfare Reauthorization Bill, which raised the work requirement for individuals getting assistance from 30 to 40 hours per week, and authorized spending TANF funds on promoting work and marriage among TANF recipients instead of using that money to provide assistance to needy families that qualify for the assistance.
Bernie believes that no one should go hungry, especially women, children, and infants. He believes that Americans who truly need assistance should not be denied access to food programs like SNAP, WIC, and the School Lunch and Breakfast programs.
According to the National Center for Childhood Poverty, some 22 percent of American children live below the poverty level of $23,550 a year for a family of four. Research shows that to cover basic expenses, a family of four needs at least $44,700 a year, a sum which is nearly twice the poverty level.
At least 16.2 million kids don’t have access to nutrient-rich foods on a daily basis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
What is SNAP? How does it work?
SNAP is short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s a food program to combat hunger in the United States. Lower income individuals and families who are struggling with hunger and food insecurity can apply to receive food assistance. An application is filed at a local or state office. An approved recipient receives monthly deposits that are placed on an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. These funds can be used to purchase food at stores that accept SNAP.
So who is receiving food stamps?
About 45 percent of all SNAP recipients are children. Additionally, disabled individuals make up 19.8 percent, senior citizens account for 8 percent, and adults without children who are not disabled make up 23.6 percent.
Nationally, 85 percent of eligible people participate in SNAP, but only 75 percent of eligible working poor individuals do. The rate of participation varies by state, with a range of 56 percent to 100 percent.
But don’t people on food stamps just buy junk food and cigarettes?
SNAP beneficiaries can only be used to buy household foods and seeds for gardening. This means that food stamps cannot be used to buy: alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, non-food items, supplements, medicines, hot foods, and restaurant or fast-food meals.
SNAP benefits can only be used by the beneficiary. They are non-transferable and cannot be traded or sold.
The documentary Food Stamped shows that eating a healthy and balanced diet on a Food Stamp budget is not easy.
How much of the federal budget is spent on SNAP?
During the 2015 fiscal year, 53.71 percent of discretionary spending went to the military, which amounts to $598.49 billion. Compare that to the $76 billion allocated to SNAP in 2014.
Source: FY 2015 Discretionary Budget from the National Priorities Project.
What does Bernie have to say about it?
Bernie has spoken out against reducing the availability of food stamps: “At a time when the richest people in this country are becoming richer and the middle class is disappearing, it is beyond shameful to cut food programs and nutrition programs.”
In an online interview, Bernie addressed the fact that in America today there are “about 46 and a half million people in this country living in poverty. Many people have experienced lower wages. People are working 40/50 hours a week. They’re living in poverty… 22 percent of our children are living in poverty.”
Bernie believes that individuals who truly need assistance should not be denied access to SNAP. In 2012, he voted against limiting eligibility and bonuses for SNAP as called for in Senate Amendments 2172 and 2165.
Bernie has also spoken out against the reduction of food stamps, saying, “at a time when the richest people in this country are becoming richer and the middle class is disappearing, it is beyond shameful to cut food programs and nutrition programs.”
If we are already funding SNAP, why do we need WIC?
WIC is short for a food assistance program called Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The WIC program is specifically designed to help pregnant women, infants, and children under 5 who need nutritional aid. Participation in the program leads to healthier infants, more nutritious diets, and better health care for children.
What has Bernie said about WIC?
Bernie has a long history of supporting the needs of women, infants, and children. In 1993, he cosponsored the bill 1993-H1722 to fully fund the WIC program. He wants to expand the WIC program to ensure pregnant mothers, infants, and children have access to the healthy food they need.
What other food assistance programs are there and where does Bernie stand?
There are food programs available for children who need food assistance: the school lunch program, the school breakfast program, the special milk program, and the summer food service program.
Bernie stated that “in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires in the country, yet over 50 percent of the children in our public schools are so low-income that they are eligible for the free or reduced price school lunch program.”
He also signed the 2009-SR67 bill which encouraged funding for low-income kids to receive breakfast at school. Bernie believes that, “When we talk about the future of America, we cannot be talking about turning our backs on the children of this country.”
Bernie supported the Military Family Nutrition Protection Act to amend the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 so that combat pay wouldn’t count as income when determining eligibility for child nutrition programs and WIC.
Why should Americans pay for programs like WIC and the School Lunch Program?
Paying special attention to women, infants, and children can influence the effectiveness of other government programs. For example, if a child goes without breakfast, their attentiveness in school decreases.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Pediatrics, and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, lack of access to meals may hurt children’s math scores and may influence children to “repeat a grade, come to school late, or miss it entirely.”
Not only does the child suffer without funding for food assistance programs, but the system is affected and education costs are increased. Educational success also influences the future socioeconomic status of an individual. Moreover, nutrition plays an important role on brain health.
According to Dr. Daniel D. Amen, M.D., as well as a study in 2000, students given “nutrient dense diets” had “40 percent less violent and other antisocial behavior than the placebo controls.”
There have been numerous studies suggesting that the health of an individual begins in the fetal and childhood developmental stages. Nutritionally, pregnant women need more vitamins and minerals than the average person. If a pregnant woman does not get adequate nutrition adverse health effects can occur. If there are any deficiencies in a pregnant woman’s diet, her baby will be more susceptible to slow growth, neurological disorders, and even death. Besides infant development, child nutrition is equally important, often influencing a person’s health well into adulthood.
Food assistance for seniors: Meals-on-Wheels
Bernie is a strong supporter of the Older Americans Act, which provides meals, supportive services, jobs, and protection from abuse for eleven million seniors. Bernie introduced bipartisan legislation, S.1562, to extend and modernize the Older Americans Act.
Food Banks & Food Pantries
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is one of several federal programs that provides food for hunger relief to emergency food pantries, food banks, soup kitchens and shelters. Under TEFAP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buys food and ships it to the states for distribution to low-income and unemployed people.
Sometimes people only need food assistance for a few weeks or months during particularly hard times, or if they do not qualify for other food assistance programs. In these circumstances, people without enough food can go to a food bank and will be given food if they meet the income requirements. Qualifying people receive food items like canned goods, bread, rice, powdered milk, and textured vegetable protein. The amount of food distributed is based on how many people are in the household, so families are given more.
Bernie supports all efforts to offer food to people who need it. He supports the provisions in the Farm Bill and the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983, which help fund SNAP, Food Banks, and other food assistance programs.
“Medicaid is a vital lifeline for some 72 million Americans. Two-thirds of all Medicaid spending supports senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Cutting Medicaid would jeopardize the quality of healthcare, long-term services, and nursing home care for tens of millions of Americans. There are significant cost issues in America’s healthcare system that must be effectively addressed, but these challenges will not be remedied by benefit cuts to vulnerable Americans.” – Bernie Sanders, 2011
Medicaid is a health insurance program that covers the poorest Americans. It is jointly funded by federal and state governments to cover low-income individuals, families with children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Until comprehensive universal healthcare is passed, Bernie supports expanding Medicaid coverage to more Americans. Bernie has consistently supported the expansion of Medicaid coverage and fought efforts to cut Medicaid funding.
He was instrumental in increasing Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
How many people are covered by Medicaid?
Medicaid covers 1 in 5 low-income Americans. 75 million people had Medicaid health insurance coverage in 2018. As of February 2019, 33 states have adopted Medicaid expansion.
- Nearly half of all births in the average state
- 83% of poor children
- 48% of children with special health care needs
- 45% of nonelderly adults with disabilities (such as physical disabilities, autism, traumatic brain injury, serious mental illness, and Alzheimer’s disease)
- 6 in 10 nursing home residents
- 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries, especially those in long-term care
So, how did the Affordable Care Act expand Medicaid coverage?
The ACA expanded Medicaid coverage with two changes. The first was raising the amount of money a family can make and still qualify for Medicaid. The ACA raised that cutoff amount to 138 percent of the poverty line, which is $16,000 for an individual and $26,951 for a family of three. Before that, a family of four had to earn less than $15,000 per year to qualify for Medicaid. With a slightly higher income cutoff, more families and individuals are eligible for Medicaid.
The second change in the ACA was to offer funding to states that make Medicaid coverage available to more people who qualify. The federal government pays 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, so the cost to the states for increased Medicaid assistance is minimal. Each state can accept or reject this funding. Ultimately, it is up to each state.
33 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Medicaid expansion. Bernie has repeatedly argued that even more Americans would get access to quality care if governors from the remaining states decided to expand Medicaid.
How much money does this save?
By most estimates, Medicaid is more cost-effective than private insurance. And in spite of the refusal of some states to expand Medicaid through the ACA, researchers at the Commonwealth Fund reported that expanding coverage to more people under the ACA would cost less than one percent of their state budgets.
Speaking of Bernie, what has he done about Medicaid?
In 2007, 2014, and 2015, he introduced the Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act, a bill designed to hold down spending on generic drugs in Medicaid. Some generic drug prices have increased as much as 100 to 1000 percent in recent years. His bill requires drug manufacturers to rebate Medicaid for increases in generic drug prices that outpace inflation.
In 2008, he cosponsored legislation to preserve funding for Medicaid. In 2015, he voted to prevent more than $1.2 trillion in cuts to Medicaid in states that expanded Medicaid as part of healthcare reform.
More recently, he introduced legislation that would undo previous cuts to Medicaid by rolling back the tax breaks the wealthy received from the Trump Administration.
You can learn more about Bernie’s positions on Medicaid by checking out our page on Healthcare.
Community Health Centers
Community health centers (CHCs) and school-based health centers (SBHCs) provide primary medical, dental, mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, and low-cost prescription drugs to 28 million people in 11,000 communities in every state across the country. They have received additional funding through the Affordable Care Act to support and expand their services.
Medicaid expansion is only effective if clinics, doctors, and hospitals accept it. That’s why Bernie fought hard to include a provision in the ACA to fund new Community Health Centers. It was a deft move that The Intercept described as making an “indelible mark on American healthcare, extending the number of people served by clinics from 18 million before the ACA to an expected 28 million next year.”
In 2019, Bernie introduced legislation with Rep. James Clyburn to fund and expand Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps, which supports healthcare providers who work in underserved communities and provides scholarships and loan-repayment to over 10,000 clinicians each year.
Sanders and Clyburn’s bill would allow 5.4 million more Americans to receive the primary care they need.
Here’s a video of the news conference where Bernie introduced the bill.
HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count, found 552,830 people were homelessness on a single night in 2018. This number represents 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States. 67 percent of people experiencing homelessness are individuals, 33 percent are families with children. Of these homeless Americans, nearly 38,000 were military veterans. 36,000 young people were homeless in 2018.
As many as 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness over the course of a year. Homelessness is rising in Los Angeles. Furthermore, over 7.4 million Americans have “lost their own homes and are doubled-up with others due to economic necessity.” There are many working poor who wind up being homeless because they can’t afford to rent a place to live.
Can’t people just go to a shelter?
Shelters aren’t always the solution. There aren’t enough shelters for families and children are often removed by social services from parents who don’t have housing. It forces people to make hard choices. Many shelters do not admit people convicted of a felony, or with alcohol or substance abuse issues. Shelters are not always safe or clean. There aren’t enough beds, so some people don’t get in. Oftentimes, people who work can’t get in line in time to get a place. Shelters can also be stressful because of the close quarters or religious proselytizing.
Over half a million Americans homeless every night – and 38,000 veterans? That’s horrible. What has Bernie said about this?
“This is clearly unacceptable.” Bernie is especially troubled that veterans who served our country and transitioning out of military service are winding up living on the streets. In 2008, Bernie outlined specific steps he saw as critical in addressing homelessness.
Bernie applauded Pope Francis for issuing an apostolic exhortation, which pointedly denounced an economic system that allows for such homelessness: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?”
Following the release of this exhortation, Bernie remarked:
“At a time when the gap between rich and everyone else is growing wider, at a time when Wall Street and large financial institutions are exerting extraordinary power over the American and world economy, I applaud the pope for continuing to speak out on these enormously important issues. Pope Francis is reminding people of all walks of life, and all religious backgrounds, that we can and must do better.”
OK, Bernie’s said a lot about homelessness. But what has he actually done?
As mentioned in the above affordable housing section, Bernie has consistently fought to make affordable housing available for all Americans. Specifically, Bernie helped create two organizations in Vermont to ensure housing prices remain affordable. Some of that housing included single-room occupancy apartments with services for the chronically homeless. That housing still exists today!
Bernie voted for an additional $70 million in Section 8 housing vouchers.
Bernie introduced legislation to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This program allowed for $3.92 billion to be distributed in block grants to help make housing more accessible to Americans, including spending $57 million to help disabled veterans adapt to their homes. Sheila Crowley, the President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, hailed the passage of legislation to create the Housing Trust Fund as “a great victory” for the homeless and poor.
Bernie also introduced the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2013, which aimed to completely eliminate homelessness among veterans by 2015 by removing barriers to housing for veterans and providing the services they need. The bill was strongly endorsed by John Driscoll, the president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, who called the bill “the most comprehensive and well-resourced homeless veterans assistance bill ever introduced in Congress.”