On Capitol Hill, a brief simulation of what poor Americans go through each day
Friday, July 18, 2014
U.S. Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.) had just finished voting on highway construction funding before he was rushed to a meeting room and thrust into the anxiety-ridden world of Ann and Albert.
Ann, a receptionist, and Albert, a computer programmer, had been struggling with their bills since Albert lost his job. They had two young sons, $200 in savings, a $600 mortgage and no insurance.
Kildee had about three minutes to understand the family’s story. He was playing the role of Albert in a simulation exercise taking place in a meeting room of the U.S. Capitol. And a congressional staffer was playing Ann.
The role play was a part of an hour-long exercise to help those working on Capitol Hill understand the day-to-day life of low-income families. About 60 staffers and interns, in pinstripe suits and pencil skirts, were pretending to be poor.
Surrounding them were meeting tables that represented pit stops: The homeless shelter. The bank. The pawn shop. The grocery store. Working in family units, each group had to figure out how to make it through a month as a poor person. In the exercise, one week lasted fifteen minutes.