Cory Booker on Welfare & Poverty

Mayor of Newark; N.J. Senator; 2020 presidential contender (withdrawn)


Refundable tax credit for difference from average rent

As a mayor who was a mayor during a recession, who was a mayor during a housing crisis, who started my career as a tenants' rights lawyer, we're not talking about something that is going on all over America, which is gentrification & low-income families being moved further and further out, often compounding racial segregation.

We've got to start empowering people. We use our tax code to move wealth up, the mortgage interest deduction. My plan is very simple. If you're a renter who pays more than 1/3 of your income in rent, then you will get a refundable tax credit between the amount you're paying and the area median rent. That empowers [renters] in the same way we empower homeowners.

And it actually slashes poverty, 10 million people out. And by the way, for those people who are facing eviction, it is about time that the only people when they show up in rentals court that have a lawyer is not the landlord, it is also low-income families struggling to stay in their homes.

Source: November Democratic primary debate in Atlanta , Nov 20, 2019

Level of U.S. child poverty is a moral obscenity

We've had 20 years of presidential debates and we have never talked about the violence in America of child poverty. We have got to begin to talk more eloquently and more persuasively and urgently about doing the things not just to make sure a fair taxes are paid by people on the top, but that we deal with the moral obscenity of having the highest levels of child poverty in the industrial world.
Source: October Democratic CNN/NYTimes Primary debate , Oct 15, 2019

HOME Act: $134 billion a year via EITC for people in poverty

Cory Booker's HOME (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity) Act is a massive expansion of the EITC, which provides supplemental cash to low-income people who work. The HOME Act (estimated cost $134 billion a year) would provide a refundable credit to people paying more than 30% of their income in rent. The credit would be worth the difference between their year's rent (capped at the area fair-market rent) and 30% of their income. The fair market rent requirement prevents the credit from going to luxury renters.

[A similar bill by presidential rival Kamala Harris], the Middle Class Act and Rent Relief Act, would cost $93 billion a year and provide $42 billion to people in poverty. Booker's HOME Act, which costs significantly more per year than Harris's rental bill, accordingly provides $51.9 billion to households in poverty.

Source: Vox.com,"5 anti-poverty plans" by 2020 presidential hopefuls , Jan 30, 2019

Newark got disproportionate share of dumps & jails

When I was growing up in the 1980s, Newark was a place often maligned or feared in the suburbs. Mentions of the city inspired concern or even pity expressed in a way that was often insulting.

New Jersey was happy to place in Newark a state prison, a county jail, waste disposal sites, sewage treatment facilities, halfway houses, drug treatment centers. A grossly disproportionate share of public and low- income housing, and other necessary public goods that wouldn't be located in surrounding suburban towns. Despite this, Newark still boasted New Jersey's finest cultural institutions, including the state's largest public library and museum. It was the state's largest college town and it was home to massive job generators such as Newark Liberty International Airport.

There was a tenacious resolve in Newark to show the world a truth that would upset shallow assertions that Newark was dead. There was a vast communal will to demonstrate that this once great city would rise again.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p. 29-30 , Feb 16, 2016

Post-WWII policy of redlining forced racially-biased housing

After World War II, racially focused housing policies were set in place at every level of government--and many of them are still on the books. These policies included local restrictive covenants that banned the transfer of property to blacks, real-estate agents steering minorities away from white towns, zoning rules that allowed towns to avoid having low- income housing, overtly discriminatory mortgage lending, redlining that effectively walled minority communities off from opportunity and investment, and FHA policies that rewarded financial institutions and builders who invested in white communities.

HUD polices were put in place that directed the building of densely clustered low-income and public housing into urban spaces. Newark's nickname, "Brick City," is derived from the federal policy to pack low-income housing into Newark and not diffusely throughout the state of New Jersey, where the impact of poverty on families would have been mitigated.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.105-6 , Feb 16, 2016

Expand EITC to more families & to job grants

Sens. Cory Booker and Tammy Baldwin introduced the Stronger Way Act. Said Senator Booker, "This legislation will expand economic opportunity and keep Americans out of poverty by strengthening tax credits for working families and programs that ease the transition from unemployment to work."

The Stronger Way Act establishes a new transitional jobs grant program. This will build a new federal partnership with state and local governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

The Stronger Way Act increases the rate at which the Earned Income Tax Credit phases in for working families with children to both encourage work and target additional dollars to low-income working families. Workers with earnings above 50% of the poverty line receive the maximum EITC. Currently, a childless adult working full-time and earning minimum wage receives little to no EITC and can be taxed into poverty. We need to make work pay for everyone by extending this tax credit to workers without children.

Source: 2014 Press Release from Senate office booker.senate.gov , Jun 3, 2014

Increase EITC collections with public-private partnerships

Q: What does mayoral experience bring to the U.S. Senate?

BOOKER: I'm going to be running around our state finding very substantive pragmatic ways to make change. And there are implications to federal policy. For example, New Jersey does not do a great job collecting its earned income tax credit money. Now, this is a federal program that I'm going to be fighting for, that I have experienced in Newark significantly increasing the EITC collections by doing public-private partnerships with local grassroots activists to set up free tax center. In fact, we set one up in the basement of city hall. And so, as a mayor, I know the urgencies of the moment and how it reflects to changing federal policies, whether it is common sense background checks, whether is if how program like the EITC or child tax care credits actually make a difference for working families.

Source: 2013 Interview on NBC's Rachel Maddow Show , Oct 22, 2013

Resided in housing project after law school, to help tenants

Long before he became America's most influential mayor, Booker began his career as an exercise in self-imposed humility.

At the age of 28, with prestigious clerkships and six-figure salaries on the horizon, he moved into a "penthouse apartment" in Brick Towers, one of Newark's worst housing projects, with the aim of helping tenants.

Booker lived there for eight years, through winters without heat or hot water, often walking up and down the fifteen flights of stairs when the elevator wasn't working. Gayle King, the CBS morning-news anchor who has become a close friend, says that by the time she started visiting him there a few years later, he no longer noticed the smell of urine in the hallways.

Source: Vogue magazine profile, "Local Hero Cory Booker" , Dec 19, 2012

2011: Founded PAC to support urban-issue candidates

What does his future hold? Most people assume that he has had his eye on a statewide office. In 2009, early polls suggested that Booker could make a viable candidate for governor in 2013. In 2011, Booker created a federal political action committee (PAC) to support candidates who supported urban issues. Many speculated that such a PAC could help Booker launch a US Senate candidacy in the future. Booker ruled out a 2012 candidacy but did not rule out running in 2014. While Booker is widely liked, he has to prepare for a street fight unlike anything he has ever experienced. The media that love him now will scrutinize him even more closely if he runs for statewide office.
Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p.228 , May 7, 2012

Assist beneficiaries with earned income tax credit

We aggressively stepped up our work with the earned income tax credit, even establishing a free tax center in City Hall, leading to savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in filing fees and assisting in putting millions of previously unclaimed dollars into the pockets of residents. And now with the Governor's expansion of eligibility for the state EITC, hundreds, if not thousands, more Newarkers can claim additional benefits.
Source: 2008 State of the City Address , Feb 1, 2008

Force landlords to provide heat to residents

Source: 2002 Newark NJ Mayoral campaign website CoryBooker.com , Feb 7, 2002

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Other big-city mayors on Welfare & Poverty: Cory Booker on other issues:

Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee)
Bill de Blasio (D,NYC)
Rahm Emanuel (D,Chicago)
Bob Filner (D,San Diego)
Steven Fulop (D,Jersey City)
Eric Garcetti (D,Los Angeles)
Mike Rawlings (D,Dallas)
Marty Walsh (D,Boston)

Former Mayors:
Rocky Anderson (I,Salt Lake City)
Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee,WI)
Mike Bloomberg (I,New York City)
Cory Booker (D,Newark,NJ)
Jerry Brown (D,Oakland,CA)
Julian Castro (D,San Antonio,TX)
Rudy Giuliani (R,New York City)
Phil Gordon (D,Phoenix)
Tom Menino (D,Boston)
Dennis Kucinch (D,Cleveland,OH)
Michael Nutter (D,Philadelphia)
Sarah Palin (R,Wasilla,AK)
Annise Parker (D,Houston)
Jerry Sanders (R,San Diego)
Antonio Villaraigosa (D,Los Angeles)
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Page last updated: Mar 25, 2021