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MEET THE CANDIDATE: Mondaire Jones

SLEEPY HOLLOW, NY — Mondaire Jones, one of eight candidates running for Congress in New York’s 17th District, issued a proposal this week to raise the federal poverty line to $38,000 for individuals living in high-cost areas like Rockland and Westchester Counties. He published an op-ed in Crooked Media this week outlining his reasoning.

“For many families, the federal poverty line represents the difference between having food to eat and going hungry. I should know—I was raised in one of these families. Growing up, my single mother relied on SNAP, more commonly known as food stamps, to feed me, and Medicaid to keep me healthy,” said NY-17 Democratic Congressional Candidate Mondaire Jones. “The federal poverty line—just $12,760 for individuals, and $26,200 for a family of four—is not grounded in the lived experience of most Americans. It must be increased, not lowered.”

Jones’ proposal comes as over 30 million Americans have recently filed for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic. The plan would dramatically expand the number of Americans who are eligible for Medicaid, SNAP, and other federal programs.

Currently, the federal poverty line does not account for any regional variation in the cost of living. The poverty line for residents of New York’s 17th Congressional District, where fair market rent is estimated at $1,789, is no different than it is for individuals in Kentucky’s 5th congressional district, where fair market rent is $696. Additionally, the federal poverty line is based on a formula developed in 1963 that does not account for the rise in health care, housing, and child care costs over the last 50 years.

The proposal Jones backs would adjust for cost-of-living differences by state and require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop an updated measure of poverty that accounts for health care, child care, and educational costs, as well as “new” costs like cell phone and internet bills. Estimates show that it would revise the federal poverty line to a more realistic $38,000 for individuals living in high-expense areas.

“Somewhere in our district, there’s a child whose parents work multiple jobs, earning just barely enough to eke past the poverty line. After a month’s expenses of gas, sky-high rent, and day care, there is little leftover. She’s uninsured but can’t qualify for the Childhood Health Insurance Program; she goes to school hungry each day because she doesn’t qualify for free breakfast; and one day, when she beats the odds and applies to college, she will be at a disadvantage when it comes to applying for Pell Grants,” said Jones. “Our antiquated definitions of who qualifies as poor are leaving children like this behind while we give tax cuts to billionaires and corporations. Let’s change that. Stories like mine, and millions more being shaped as the crisis rages, show why it is imperative that we do.”

About Mondaire: Mondaire Jones is a 32-year-old former litigator in the Westchester County Law Department and former Department of Justice staffer during the Obama Administration. A resident of South Nyack, he is running to represent New York's 17th Congressional District. A product of East Ramapo public schools, Mondaire was raised in Section 8 housing and on food stamps in the Village of Spring Valley by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to provide for their family. He later graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He is a co-founder of the nonprofit Rising Leaders, Inc. and has previously served on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors and on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Mondaire is a progressive running to fight for bold solutions to our biggest problems: a Green New Deal, tuition-free public college and student debt forgiveness, Medicare for All, and a full restoration of the SALT deduction for families in Rockland and Westchester.

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