Catholic Charities USA marks first b-day of its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America

Catholic Charities USA today marked the first anniversary of the launch of its ambitious effort to cut the U.S. poverty rate in half by 2020, noting a strong national response to the call for action, several legislative successes, and a growing recognition of the critical need to help the poor by government leaders in Washington. The Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America was announced a year ago at a packed event in Washington, DC, with Catholic Charities outlining a legislative and grassroots agenda to cut the poverty rate in half and a pledge to hold lawmakers accountable to protect the social safety net in the country.

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said that the response of the Catholic Charities network to the campaign has been tremendous, as more than 4,500 people and more than 390 organizations have endorsed the campaign, with more than 27,000 letters sent to members of Congress urging them to support legislation to help those living in poverty.

“While there were failures on the part of Capitol Hill to pass key legislation to help those living in poverty, the voice of Catholic Charities USA on behalf of those we serve remains present and strong,” Father Snyder said. “This year will present some important opportunities for action, including asking those running for office to explain how they will work to cut poverty in this country.”

The four main areas of focus for the Campaign are improving food and nutrition programs, increasing access to health care, enabling more people to get affordable housing, and promoting greater economic security for the poor and vulnerable through programs that support work and strengthen families. Legislation to help those living in poverty that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in the past year included a raise in the Minimum Wage; reforms to the student loan program; and additional resources to help low-income families afford heat this winter.

Snyder also noted significant progress on a number of other key priorities that will continue to be at the center of legislative fights in 2008. These issues include positive legislation passed by the Congress but was vetoed by the President that would improve access to proper health care for low-income children; improve the Food Stamp Program-the nation’s food safety for low-income people; create more opportunities for those transitioning out of our nation’s prisons and jails through the Second Chance Act.

The efforts of Catholic Charities through the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America were recognized by government leaders. Snyder was invited to testify before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support on proposals for reducing poverty, and congressional anti-hunger leaders praised the work of Catholic Charities in fighting for more funding for food stamp programs. In addition, Catholic Charities was invited to be one of the panelists questioning presidential candidates on the needs of the poor in a CNN forum last June.

Nationally, 36.5 million Americans live in poverty, and Catholic Charities agencies serve more than 7.8 million people each year. More than half of the people served by local Catholic Charities, 4.1 million, were living below the federal poverty line, according to Poverty in America: Beyond the Numbers , a report released by CCUSA in November.

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