AOC unveils sprawling package to address poverty in US

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rolled out a sweeping legislative package on Wednesday aimed at combating poverty in the U.S. with a series of measures, including giving undocumented immigrants access to Medicaid.

The six-bill proposal -- named “A Just Society” -- begins by calling for a change in the way the federal poverty line is calculated, directing the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Bureau of Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, to take into account new factors such as geographic differences, costs related to health insurance, work expenses for families, child care needs and new necessities, such as Internet access.

The freshman Democrat estimated in a tweet the poverty line could be close to $38,000 per year for one person -- more than double the current level. Right now, a single person is considered poor in the U.S. if they make less than $12,500 per year.

"I think one of the things that that we can get done is build popular support in acknowledging how bad the problem already is. In doing so we can actually begin to fundamentally address those problems," Ocasio-Cortez told NPR on Tuesday. "If we can acknowledge how many Americans are actually in poverty, I think that we can start to address some of the more systemic issues in our economy."

It’s unclear how much the sprawling legislation would cost if signed into law. 

Other proposals in the bundle include:

  • A bill to protect tenants by capping monthly rent increases at 3 percent and forbidding landlords from evicting people unless they haven’t paid rent for two consecutive months, among other provisions. 
  • Under “The Embrace Act,” undocumented immigrants would gain access to federal public benefits, including Medicaid, unemployment benefits, welfare and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as food stamps). 
  • Similarly, individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense would also have access to federal public benefits in the “Mercy in Re-Entry Act.” Currently, convicted felons are not allowed to apply for federal or state grants, live in public housing, or receive food stamps in some states
  • Another bill requires the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget to include paid-family leave, scheduling predictability, a $15 minimum wage or an “otherwise prevailing wage,” and union membership for federal contractors. 
  • Finally, Ocasio-Cortez calls for the U.S. to join a slew of other nations and ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. It states that all persons have the right to work, and just conditions of work, Social Security, an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing, housing and health care.