Kenyatta, Burgos discuss eliminating toxic poverty at Policy Committee hearing

PHILADELPHIA, March 5 – State Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Danilo Burgos, both D-Phila., hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing to discuss the health impacts of deep poverty and how to reverse the trend.

The freshmen legislators brought together legislators from across the state, including Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, and local officials and advocates to discuss how they can work together to create better opportunities to break the cycle of toxic poverty.

“Poverty is a public health crisis and we must address it as such. Toxic poverty systemically diminishes educational opportunities for our kids and in communities hardest hit,” Kenyatta said. “Securing a family sustained job that can build generational wealth and lift folks out of this cycle is too often out of reach. Today’s discussion further emphasized that eradicating poverty is the moral and economic issue of our time and brought light to how we can work together to invest our resources in educating our communities, children and adults, and reduce the need for correctional and unnecessary medical costs.”

“The poverty cycle is hard on families. It’s a depressing cycle that is difficult to overcome,” Burgos said. “If we can work together as a community to empower people, address the mental and physical toll poverty takes on individuals and help lift them up, we can make real change that improves life for Pennsylvanians. I’m proud to discuss this with the committee and my colleagues from across the state so they can see the unique challenges our community faces.” 

Sturla added: “Today’s hearing shed light on how toxic poverty is an issue that deeply impacts families. Those experiencing poverty and growing up in poverty face challenges that those without money issues simply don’t. Children especially face developmental issues that follow them to adulthood. This year, I’ve been working on helping address Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACES, to empower schools and communities to come together and address the needs of those children that are experiencing hardships. Addressing these experiences will ultimately help them overcome them. Governor Wolf mentioned this in his budget address and it is one of my top priorities.” 

The committee heard testimony from Dr. Loren Robinson, deputy secretary for Health, Promotion and Disease Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health; Octavia Howell, officer, Philadelphia Research Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts; Susannah Anderson, assistant professor, Temple University College of Public Health; and Bella Zuzel, resident, Project HOME.

The meeting is one in a series being held across the state on House Democrats’ Plan4PA, which is focused on putting people first, good jobs, healthcare access, quality schools and jobs training, and a fair economy. Additional information about the plan is available at

Testimony and video from today’s hearing will be available at