Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined Congressional Black Caucus Chair G. K. Butterfield (NC), Chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA), and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) for a discussion with Howard University students. The discussion focused on the damaging impacts that sequester level funding has on minority communities, including cuts to Pell grants, and the need to reach a bipartisan budget agreement that replaces the sequester. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, [Howard University] President Frederick, not only for those words of welcome but for your leadership of an institution that, perhaps more than any other, has demonstrated the immense value historically black colleges and universities bring to our nation and its people.
“We’re here today because the future of this country is being threatened by the Republican policy of sequestration. That’s a very complicated term for a very simple concept: severe and arbitrary budget cuts that affect everything the federal government does. Cuts to anti-poverty programs. Cuts to public health. Cuts to programs that support research and innovation. Cuts to national security and defense. And, most relevant here at Howard, cuts to programs that help our young people access quality, affordable higher education.
“Those of you who are students here are fortunate to be studying at one of the top universities in America. Not everyone has that opportunity, but everyone who works hard and does well in school deserves a chance to go to college.
“Federal student loan and work-study programs like Pell grants and Stafford loans are going to face significant pressure if sequestration is allowed to return this year if Congress doesn’t act to prevent it. There are real world implications if that happens.
“African American college students are more likely to be eligible for Pell grants, and those who benefit from them are more likely to graduate. More than 50% of African American college students in this country rely on Pell grants to afford their higher education. Seventy-two percent of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities receive Pell grants. And with rising tuition, next year’s Pell grant will cover the smallest share of the cost of college in more than four decades. We ought to be investing more in this program, not disinvesting in it.
“At the same time, sequester cuts will devastate public education at the K-12 level and for early childhood programs.
“The most vulnerable in America – seniors, low-income families, the homeless, the hungry, and the sick – will be disproportionately affected by sequestration. This ought to be of particular concern to communities of color, which have suffered higher rates of poverty and need more help from Congress, not more heartache.
“The clock is ticking. The window for action to stop sequestration will close at the end of this month, after which it will be much harder to reach an agreement.
“[Congressional Black Caucus] Chairman Butterfield and my colleagues who serve in the Congressional Black Caucus have been instrumental in drawing attention to the effects of sequestration on the African-American community, and I want to thank them for their continued leadership as Congress prepares to face the question of how to end this dangerous policy that was imposed by the extreme right-wing of the Republican party.
“Before I turn the floor over to Chairman Butterfield, let me also say a special thank you to a leader in Congress who couldn’t make it today but who has been working tirelessly to expand access to affordable higher education in our country, and that is Ranking Member Bobby Scott of the House Education and Workforce Committee. I know he wishes he could be here with us, and we appreciate his efforts to help more young people pursue and achieve their dream of going to college.
“Now please join me in welcoming my friend, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield from North Carolina.”