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Our Nation Must Act to Reduce Poverty, NCC General Secretary Says
As Census Bureau Reports Deepening Poverty in the United States

September 26, 2003, NEW YORK CITY -- Commenting on the U.S. Census Bureau's report today that poverty is deepening in the United States, the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches,  called on the Bush Administration and the Congress to pass legislation that will reduce poverty and lessen the burdens of those who are in need. 

"While our government focuses massive expenditures on helping rebuild war-torn Iraq, including establishing a complete health care system to serve all the Iraqi people, we must do no less to alleviate poverty for those in our own country, especially children," Dr. Edgar said. "Every 60 seconds a child is born into poverty in the United States. How can we, as a self-proclaimed people of conscience, fail to mobilize our abundant resources to overcome this problem?"

Dr. Edgar's full statement follows:

"Poverty numbers have increased again in the United States. According to 2002 statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, 34.6 million Americans are living in poverty, including 12.1 million children. With the wealthiest economy in the world, our nation must not stand idly by as if we could do nothing to help the most vulnerable among us who are suffering more and more each year. Our leaders have both a moral obligation and a public duty to re-energize efforts to end the unnecessary struggle that so many in our country endure.

"While our government focuses massive expenditures on helping rebuild war-torn Iraq, including establishing a complete health care system to serve all the Iraqi people, we must do no less to alleviate poverty for those in our own country, especially children. Every 60 seconds a child is born into poverty in the United States. How can we, as a self-proclaimed people of conscience, fail to mobilize our abundant resources to overcome this problem? If we have billions to spend in Iraq, we clearly have the ability to provide those living in poverty in America with the opportunity to improve their living conditions and become self-sufficient.

"The National Council of Churches calls on the Bush Administration and the Congress to pass legislation that will reduce poverty, not increase it; to lessen the burdens of those who are in need, not intensify them. We urge our elected leaders to act now to protect and strengthen programs that will improve the quality of people’s lives. We urge them to reauthorize Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare reform) and strengthen the program by increasing opportunities for recipients to move out of poverty. Head Start must receive adequate funding and be more comprehensive. The child tax credit should be available to low-income families; and affordable, accessible health care should be available to all Americans.

"We believe that offering authentic hope to the disadvantaged and acting in concert for the common good are not only core values expressed in Scripture and Christian ministry, but are deeply held ideals of the American public. As we pursue our 10-year, faith-based Mobilization to Overcome Poverty with renewed vigor, we call on our President and Congress to do legislatively what we will do programmatically through our churches and partnerships.

"Reliant upon God’s grace we look toward a measurable reduction of poverty in America and a greater potential for all persons to live the lives for which they were created."

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