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January 10, 2007

Catholic Social Services Joins Broad National Catholic Charities Campaign to Cut Poverty in America in Half by 2020

Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia today joined a new multi-year initiative lead by Catholic Charities USA to cut poverty in half by 2020. The campaign will urge Congress and the Administration to give a much higher priority to the needs of the poor in budget and policy decisions on issues such as health care, housing, nutrition, and economic security.

"In Philadelphia County, nearly 1 in 4 persons (24.5% of the population) is living in poverty," said Msgr. Joseph Tracy, Secretary for Catholic Human Services. "This dubious preeminence for the City underscores more than ever the need for a commitment to act boldly in fighting poverty in our neighborhoods. Poverty is not a far-away concern, something 'out there' -- it is a serious problem in our own backyard."

The goal of Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America is to cut the poverty rate in the United States in half by 2020. Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is involved in the broad effort by Catholic Charities USA that will involve partners in social service agencies, the faith community, and other groups in a sustained effort to convince government officials of the importance of making systemic changes in government programs to help the poor and most vulnerable in our society.

"The Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America is about who we are as a nation," Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "We must no longer ignore the injustice of poverty and the extreme inequality in America and instead must seize this opportunity to advocate for changes that promote human dignity and the common good."

With more than 275 years of experience in serving those living in poverty, Catholic Charities agencies have a unique understanding of this growing problem and its devastating impact on families and the nation.

"Catholic Charities agencies provide help and offer hope to more than 7.4 million people each year, and in communities across the country, specifically helping 147,000 in the five-county Southeastern region of Pennsylvania," said Msgr. Tracy. "Our agency sites have been coping with a steady increase in demand for emergency assistance, primarily among working families, like many agencies across the nation. Each day, we serve families who work hard but still do not earn enough to provide for their basic needs."

"We know that as local agencies continue to help the working poor families meet their daily needs, we must also advocate for policy changes that will help lift them out of poverty," Snyder said. "Our Catholic tradition teaches that society, acting through government, has a special obligation to consider first the needs of the poor."

"Through the Catholic Charities USA's Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, we will encourage our members of Congress and elected state government representatives to improve programs and policies in four key issue areas: health care, affordable housing, nutrition assistance, and economic security for the poor and vulnerable," said Tracy.

Specific policy areas of focus for Congressional action as part of the Campaign to Reduce Poverty include the following:

" Provide adequate funding for health care for our nation's most vulnerable citizens.
" Maintain the integrity and strength of the Medicaid program.
" Remove new restrictions to Medicaid that create barriers for low-income families.
" Provide adequate funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to expand coverage for all eligible children.
" Reform SCHIP to make it easier for eligible children to apply.
" Support policies that provide integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment.

" Provide adequate funding for federally subsidized housing programs.
" Support and strengthen programs aimed at increasing homeownership.
" Establish a National Housing Trust Fund.
" Support comprehensive reform of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Program.

" Strengthening the Food Stamp Program to better assist the working poor and the elderly
" Protect funding for critical food programs that serve low-income families, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Community Food and Nutrition Program.
" Ensure that federal nutrition programs meet the unique needs of rural families.

" Increase the minimum wage and ensure that it is automatically increased to keep pace with inflation.
" Improve the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to benefit more families.
" Promote policies that support and strengthen families, including low-income fathers.
" Expand employment and training opportunities for low-income workers.
" Improve the protection and care of abused, neglected, and abandoned children and youth.
" Provide adequate funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
" Ensure access to quality early education for all children.
" Improve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to be more inclusive for more workers.
" Preserve funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).
" Support comprehensive immigration reform that protects vulnerable families.


Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

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