Chairman Patty Murray and the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the economic and budget outlook for individuals, families, and communities. At the hearing Murray heard stories from Americans on how decisions made in Congress affect their lives.

Chairman Murray highlighted that the recovery isn’t reaching people fast enough, and investments must be made to expand opportunity and help those in need get ahead.

“The simple truth is, across the country today, the recovery isn’t reaching enough people nearly fast enough.  Across the country, too many parents sit at their kitchen table, wondering how they’ll be able to send their kids to college, or save for retirement. And Congress hasn’t been making nearly enough of the kinds of investments students need to get ahead,” Murray said in her opening statement, which was submitted for the record.

“Expanding opportunity isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s good for the economy. And it’s a good solution to our long-term fiscal challenges. That’s because when more people have the chance to get ahead, our economy will grow. When our economy grows, more Americans will be able to contribute. And more growth and prosperity will help us to close our long-term budget deficits,” Murray said.

Read Chairman Murray’s full opening statement here.

Edith Kimball, an elementary school food services professional from Lee, Florida, explained that if the minimum wage were raised, it would provide her family with more stability and opportunity, and asked Congress to not forget about families like hers when making major decisions.

“I know that Congress is talking about raising the minimum wage. For me, in my job, that would mean an increase of $200 more a month for my family. That would help give us a just a little more in our budget. It could help me open a college savings plan for my children for their future…I know other families in my town that would be helped by an increase in the minimum wage too. And I think it would make more people want to work.”

“It is my prayer that you will think about towns like mine and families like mine when you make major decisions here. We should not be forgotten and left by the wayside,”Kimball said.

Murray asked Kimball to further describe how a raise in the minimum wage would help her family and the community they live in.

“For people in my community, it would encourage them to get a job if it’s there. For my family it would mean I could save for college for my children, put back money to possibly go on vacation, which we’ve never had – never been on vacation. It would just mean a better life overall for my family.” Kimball responded.

Read Edith Kimball’s full testimony here.

Edith Kimball Courtney Johnson

Courtney Johnson, a high school English teacher from Columbus, Ohio asked Congress to help in creating economic and educational opportunities, to ensure that all families have a chance to succeed.

We can create a world where kids can have hope that they can move out of poverty and into a strong middle class. You can work on investing in jobs and ensuring job creation in my state and in my community. You can raise the minimum wage. You can make education the great equalizer by providing formula-based funds to the public schools where they are needed most. You can make college affordable,” Johnson said.

Johnson explained that many of her students may not be able to afford college.

That college opportunity that I was privileged to have isn’t there for many of my students. Just last week, I was sitting with a bright young senior as she anxiously scrolled through her college application. She put her head in her hands, and said, ‘I just want to go to college.’ How will she afford it? It is heartbreaking, and I don’t have an answer for her. We are complicit in a system where wealth protects wealth, and college is the new lotto ticket. Community college or bust is the story of dreams deferred. We are telling young people ‘college is not for you...’ Where are we as a country when our young folks have no hope of a pathway out of poverty and into the middle class?” Johnson told the committee.

Read Courtney Johnson’s full testimony here.

Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress highlighted that a thriving middle class is critical to America’s economic growth, and investments must be made to help struggling families.

“There is no silver bullet to get our economy working again and to roll back decades of rising income inequality. But there is no doubt in my mind that a rising, thriving middle class is the true engine of America’s economic growth – not just a consequence of it.”

“With the share of long-term unemployed workers near its highest point, we must extend emergency  unemployment insurance, which provides millions of struggling families with a vital economic lifeline. And as we help these workers get back on their feet, we should be expanding—not cutting—job training, which is so crucial in helping the unemployed acquire the new skills they need to find work. We also need to restore recent cuts made to nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which helps working families, veterans, and seniors who are struggling to afford food,” Tanden said.

Read Neera Tanden’s full testimony here.