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NETWORK Calls for Government Action on Dramatic Rise in Poverty

FOR RELEASE:
September 16, 2010                                                                            

CONTACT:  Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224, sniedringhaus@networklobby.org

Washington DC:  In response to today’s U.S. Census Bureau’s release of the 2009 poverty data, Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, stated: “These poverty statistics underscore the grim fact that people who benefited the least from the last economic boom are the ones who are suffering the most in this severe recession. Government policies of both parties have failed the working poor in our country. It is a scandal for the richest country in the world that one in seven people here live in poverty.”

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, also released the following statement:

We are deeply disturbed by Washington’s continued inability to effectively address our nation’s rising poverty rates, as evidenced by today’s release of official poverty statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 43.6 million people lived in poverty in 2009, the highest number since statistics were first kept 51 years ago. Also shocking, more than a quarter of all Blacks and Hispanics struggled in poverty during the year, as did more than one in five children. They include more than more than one in three Black and Hispanic children.

While shocking, these statistics are no surprise for those of us who work with people at the economic margins and who speak out in solidarity with them. We know that social service agencies and faith groups are stretched thin as they try to meet dramatically rising needs. In July, our organization released a research report (http://www.networklobby.org/TANF_Report) based on our survey of people seeking help at homeless shelters and other service agencies. TANF Tested: Lives of People in Poverty showed that:

  • Since the recession began, our nation’s poorest families have not received adequate help from one of the major programs meant just for them—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  • Food stamp (SNAP) and other nutrition programs don’t reach enough families so hunger is an all-to-prevalent experience for American families.
  • Limited access to education and quality job training keep unemployment rates high – and people poor.
  • TANF’s “Work First” emphasis is problematic during periods of high unemployment and low wages. Many people face more than one barrier to employment, including transportation, child care, disability, domestic violence, and language barriers. Poverty and homelessness are often the result.

While we are grateful that some government programs, including unemployment benefits, kept these numbers from rising even higher, we are deeply concerned that today’s new poverty statistics come at a time when programs meant to help people in poverty are about to expire. These include TANF and needed tax credits for low-income families. We  call on Congress to extend TANF so that it can be improved prior to reauthorization, to extend the tax credits for low-income families, and to adequately fund those programs meant to help people in need.