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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
Steering And Policy Hearing On Poverty April 15, 2016
Barbara Lee, D-CA
"Thank you Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman DeLauro, Congresswoman Edwards, and Whip Hoyer. Thank you to the other panelists up here with me. And I want to give a special thank-you to my Congresswoman, Congresswoman Barbara Lee. I’m here today because of you, Congresswoman Lee, both because you invited me to this hearing, but in a bigger sense, your leadership in Oakland and support of good reentry and economic policies has made it possible for me to escape poverty and live a life I am proud of and talk to you about today. I am honored to be here, and grateful that you have given me the opportunity to speak about these issues. I am a worker, a mother, a grandmother, a formerly incarcerated person, a churchgoer, and a student. I can speak only for myself but I hope that my testimony today can give voice to the millions of people who, like me, got caught up in the criminal justice system, worked incredibly hard to transform their lives, but still face lifelong stumbling blocks to financial stability. Unlike me, too many people who worked have never escaped poverty despite their hard work. For me, like so many, the challenges started with childhood poverty. My father died when I was four years old. My mother had seven children to care for on her own and she really struggled. I grew up in the Aliso Village housing project in East Los Angeles. I never remember, as a child, having hope or vision about a bright future. My “escape” came when I was fourteen years old. My 21- year-old boyfriend took me to Oakland and made me work the streets. At the time, I did not have the privilege of believing that I deserved more and better for my life. I was first arrested for when I was sixteen years old but I was not seen as the victim of sex trafficking. I was treated like a criminal. And I became one. My next boyfriend, who was 25 years older than I was, taught me how to become a thief. When I was 19 years old I was sent to prison for grand theft and conspiracy of several hundred dollars in a street scam. Because I was a high school dropout, I got my G.E.D. while I was in prison, and afterward I took college-level classes. For the first time in my life I was exposed to learning, and I loved it. While in prison I met a mother and a daughter who were incarcerated at the same time. This broke my heart because the daughter had a child whom she missed dearly and tried to escape from prison to get back to her child. The moment I heard that the daughter tried to escape, I made a decision to change my life. I wanted children but I was going to put them through that. I have never looked back. Once I got out, I had two wonderful children and dedicated myself to supporting them. I worked full-time as a cosmetologist but still did not earn enough to feed my family. For a while we survived because we had access to food stamps, which we needed even when I was working multiple full-time jobs. Then, thanks to an affirmative action program, I was able to join the local Laborers Union and I worked heavy construction for the next 20 years. It was hard physical labor but I was grateful for the opportunity because I earned more money than I had ever earned at any other job. It allowed me, as a single parent, to provide for my children, though we still struggled. Working as a laborer became more and more difficult as I grew older and I looked for other work. When I was 54 years old I was denied office jobs because of my convictions, which were then 30 years old. Thanks to free reentry clean slate legal services—which Congresswoman Barbara Lee helped start in Oakland at the East Bay Community Law Center—I was able to clean up my record, and as a result I was able to get a great job, and thankfully one that this sixty-one-year-old body can handle. I’m coordinating the environmental/waste reduction program for a large city agency. It has been an inspiring and wonderful opportunity. I was even able to fulfill my life-long dream of becoming a homeowner and I bought a condo in Oakland. A few years back I enrolled in a community college in Oakland to study Environmental Management, where I take night and evening classes. I have surprised myself by earning a 3.92 GPA, and was even more surprised when I was recently invited to transfer to the University of California at Berkeley. But—and this why we are here today—despite my successes, and despite working as hard as a person can work, I have worried constantly about keeping my head above water financially. I have had stable employment, and I have catapulted myself out of the deep poverty my family knew when I was a child. BUT still, even now, I can’t say that I have feel economically secure. I struggled mightily to hold onto my condo through the economic recession. I am 61 years old and worried about being able to retire anytime soon. I don’t exactly know how to define “middle class” but it can’t mean what I have done for the last 3 decades of my life: Working full time, being very frugal, but yet also constantly worrying about meeting my basic financial obligations and the threat of eviction. And I am someone who has been exceptionally lucky in terms of the abundance of learning and employment opportunities I have had! I cannot imagine the financial burdens of people who have been less fortunate or live in areas with fewer programs. My plea today is that you work for policies that reward all hard working people in America with a fair chance to support their families. This is the challenge my children face even though both of them are resourceful, intelligent, and have good jobs. I pray that my children will be able to know economic prosperity, which at very least means living without constant worry about day-to-day about making it. I sit before you as a very different person from who I was as lost and hopeless 16-year-old girl on the streets. It has been a long journey of seeking forgiveness for the harm I caused others, and healing myself I hope my story can inspire women who are now struggling on the path I was on thirty years ago. I want them to be encouraged to persevere and make positive changes in their lives, and to have faith in the system. But the system must also have faith in us! Successful reentry requires government policies and programs that remove stumbling blocks to economic security. I am exceptionally grateful to be here but I am not exceptional. I am an example of what’s possible when we support people through smart and fair reentry and economic programs. Thank you."
Honoring The Life Of Terry O’Sullivan April 13, 2016
Tim Ryan, D-OH
"Terry worked in the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local Union 261 in San Francisco in 1947, at the age of 17. He quickly rose through the ranks, taking on many leadership roles before being appointed LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer, the second-highest elected office in the union, in 1968. For more than six decades, Terry was a major force in his union, which represents nearly half a million workers in construction, health care, the public sector, and the federal government. He dedicated his life to fighting for workers’ rights, and for social and economic justice. Terry was a lifelong advocate of training, retirement security, and health benefits for the proud men and women of LIUNA. Through his entire career, he worked passionately and tirelessly on behalf of LIUNA, its members, and their families."
Celebrating The 90Th Anniversary Of The Denville Volunteer Fire Department April 13, 2016
Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ
"In March of 1927, volunteer laborers finished work on Denville’s first firehouse, transforming the garage of one of its members into an operational department home. By 1935 and following a gift of land by the Denville Board of Education, the Denville Fire Department was able to establish its own building outside of the garage. Construction of the Union Hill Firehouse was completed in early 1958, and following another gift of land by the Denville Board of Education, the department was able to construct the Valley View Firehouse."
Morning Business April 12, 2016
Patrick Leahy, D-VT
"Multinational palm oil companies, pulp and paper businesses, the plantations that sell to them, farmers and even day laborers all contribute to the problem.”"
Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act Of 2015 March 21, 2016
Carlos Curbelo, R-FL
"The important services that are provided by the Older Americans Act help us to achieve a goal that we can all get behind—that of supporting the country’s seniors in helping them maintain the active, productive lives they desire. As I see it, that is not just a goal—it is our responsibility. The seniors we are talking about are veterans, parents, grandparents, teachers, caregivers, laborers, job creators. They are individuals who have worked hard all of their lives, who have helped this country grow and expand, and who, in a lot of ways, have supported many of us throughout our own lives."

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