NBC NEWS/POVERTY IN AMERICA
By Hannah Rappleye, NBC News
PHILADELPHIA — On some days, Yolanda Williams says she wonders why it’s so hard to stay alive. “I’m working as hard as I can. Every time I talk to my boss I ask, ‘Is there any more work?’”
Williams works part-time as a home-health aide so that she can also attend the Kaplan school to study medical billing. For about 17 hours a week of work, at $10 an hour, she takes home about $298 every two weeks, which she uses to support her disabled husband and her 21-year-old daughter, both of whom are unemployed.
“I’m trying to go to school so I can get a better job, so I can get off welfare,” added Williams, who receives food stamps and Medicaid. “If that means I have to be on the bus 24 hours a day, I’ll do it.”
Her weekly toil – which includes nearly 30 hours on buses – underscores one of the truths of life for the millions of American living with poverty: it’s expensive to be poor.
Williams and her family live in north Philadelphia. She spends her check only on the essentials: rent, gas and electric, bus passes, a phone. She doesn’t have cable or internet.
“If you own a home, plus childcare, plus commuting costs you can be well above poverty and still not be able to make ends meet,” said Professor Scott Allard, an expert in poverty and the social safety net at University of Chicago. “You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re playing by the rules but you’re not making it.”
BY STEPHANIE CONDON
A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed with strong support in the Senate on Thursday, bringing Washington one step closer to accomplishing a major milestone that both Democrats and Republicans have long sought.
Now, however, the bill goes to the House, where, at best, it faces significant headwinds.
The measure passed 68 to 32, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the Senate chamber and the senators all casting their votes from their desks. Senators are rarely seated at their desks for votes — the largely symbolic move is typically reserved for confirming Supreme Court nominees or major votes, such as the 2010 Affordable Care Act vote or the 2011 resolution commending troops and the intelligence community for the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Fourteen Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two Independents in voting for the bill, including Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, R-N.J., the Republican who was appointed to his seat this month after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. No Democrats voted against the bill.
After the legislation passed, President Obama released a statement commending the Senate and urging the public to lobby the House to pass some version of the bill.
“As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye,” he said. “Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen.”
Ned Resnikoff, @resnikoff
Roughly 150 people died from work-related illness or injury per day in 2011, according to a new report the AFL-CIO released on Tuesday. Fatal workplace injuries claimed 13 lives per day, while work-related illness and disease killed an additional 137 people daily.
Although occupational fatality rates have trended downward in the years since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the gradual improvement of workplace safety seems to have halted in recent years.
“After years of steady decline, for the past three years the job fatality rate has essentially been unchanged,” according to the report.