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Catholic Social Justice Lobby Responds to New Census Bureau Data on Poverty and Lack of Healthcare

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2009

CONTACT: STEPHANIE NIEDRINGHAUS, 202-347-9797 x224, sniedringhaus@networklobby.org

Washington DC: NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, issued the following statement about the rising numbers of people in poverty and without health insurance:

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released troubling new data on poverty and the lack of access by millions of people to health insurance. What is especially alarming is that there is widespread agreement that, as bad as these 2008-based statistics are, they have grown far worse in 2009 due to the economic downturn.

Tragically, even as poverty increases in our nation, little attention is paid to the suffering it causes. In one year alone – from 2007 to 2008 – the percentage of people in poverty rose from 12.5 to 13.2%. This means that more than 2½ million additional people experienced new hardships just trying to meet their basic needs in 2008. Among the victims were more than 14 million children – and even more families struggle today.

The rising numbers of people without health insurance is equally troubling. From 2007 to 2008, the uninsured population rose from 45.7 to 46.3 million people. The increase would have been even more staggering if there hadn’t been a large rise in the numbers of families and children who rely on government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP for their healthcare needs (from 83 million in 2007 to 87.4 million people in 2008).

Today’s legislative push for access for all to quality, affordable healthcare grows more urgent by the day. Congress can no longer afford to delay this vital legislation. The wellbeing of millions of our neighbors depends on it.

Furthermore, Congress cannot ignore the growing needs of people struggling in poverty. Human needs programs such as SNAP (food stamps), housing assistance and job training must be adjusted and adequately funded to meet ever-growing needs.

According to Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK Executive Director, “These cold statistics from 2008, when the unemployment rate was at 5.8%, tell a grim story of more people, especially children, living in poverty. But now that the unemployment rate is at 9.4% and increasing numbers of people are working part-time, more people – especially women and their children – are plunging into poverty. We as a nation must create policies based on this truth, not on an idealized notion of the economy. Government safety-net programs for healthcare are successful; private insurance in many instances is not. We need to make a change now so that all people, regardless of employment, have access to quality affordable healthcare.”

NETWORK—a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace—educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation. Founded in 1971 by 47 Catholic sisters, NETWORK is supported by thousands of groups and individuals committed to working for social and economic justice. For more information, see www.networklobby.org.

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