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National Council joins religious coalition
calling for a moral budget and jobs bill

Washington, February 5, 2010 -- The National Council of Churches today joined with other faith groups in calling for the federal budget to address the deep of issues of poverty, and care for those hit hardest by the economic recession.

The statement is in response to 2010’s first unemployment figures released today, which show another 20,000 jobs lost in January and an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent.

“As people of faith, the latest job numbers are a call to action to care for those who are struggling in today’s economy,” said Jordan Blevins, Coordinator of Poverty Initiatives for the National Council of Churches. “The budget provides the President with the opportunity to create a national priority to lift people out of poverty. It is a chance to aid those in the greatest need in at-risk communities, creating jobs that pay a living wage and are sustainable.”

The faith statement on the budget follows a recent letter by faith groups that calls on Congress to create jobs legislation that provides for those  “who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship in today’s economy.”

The National Council of Churches, representing 36 communions and 100,000 congregations, has focused on issues of poverty throughout its 50-year history. Among the highlights of the Council’s anti-poverty work are education and worship resources on poverty and faith that aid faith in addressing poverty issues locally, available at www.nccendpoverty.org.  

The full statement follows:

The federal budget serves as a fundamental statement of who we are as a nation. As communities of faith, we hold it to be a moral document. The federal budget provides Congress with the single greatest opportunity to shape our country’s priorities. The choices made about how the nation generates revenues and spends its shared resources must promote the long-term economic security of individuals, families and the nation as a whole. Congress must embrace a broad understanding of human security that provides hope, opportunity, and a place at the table for all people.  

In addition to working for a just and sustainable budget that meets the needs of low-income people, we will work in 2010 to strengthen several critical programs. We urge Congress to develop a budget that advances these priorities:

FY 2011 FEDERAL BUDGET PRIORITIES

1.     Protect human needs programs from a spending freeze and include a domestic discretionary spending cap high enough for these programs to serve adequately low- and moderate-income people and meet the rising need for those suffering in the midst of the economic downturn, especially:

·         Child welfare, child support enforcement, and child care;

·         Head start, early education, and higher education;

·         WIC, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and other nutrition assistance programs;

·         Housing assistance and LIHEAP; and,

·         Job training and placement and wage theft prevention.

2.     Protect and create good sustainable jobs, targeting assistance to those hit hardest by the recession and allocating resources for worker retraining, education assistance, and other job-related services while promoting high growth and priority industries (like renewable energy, health care, education, infrastructure, and child care) in both the public and private sectors.

3.     Provide $1 billion per year (or $10 billion over ten years) in new investments for child nutrition programs so that this year’s reauthorization will put us on track to reaching the goal of ending child hunger by 2015 by increasing program access and participation for low-income children.

4.     Provide sufficient funding for a robust reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program so that it will effectively enable low-income families to provide necessities for their dependents, obtain the education and training they need for work, and achieve financial stability as they work to lift themselves out of poverty.

5.     Address the affordable housing crisis and collapse of the housing market by funding the Section 8 Voucher Program, the Section 202 Program, the Section 811 Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund.

6.     Protect and expand targeted tax benefits for low-income, working families by making permanent expansions to the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, the country’s largest and most effective anti-poverty program.

In Proverbs (31.9) we are reminded of our responsibility to “Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” Our budgetary and legislative priorities are grounded in three values that together ensure a just foundation upon which to build the economy and strengthen our communities:

SHARED VALUES THAT SHAPE OUR BUDGET PRIORITIES

1.     Shared Commitment to Meeting Immediate Needs for the Most Vulnerable: While the faith community is committed to serving vulnerable populations, we cannot end hunger through soup kitchens alone, nor solve the nation’s affordable housing crisis through congregational shelter programs. The recession has exposed our nation’s weaknesses and augmented families’ need for assistance to crisis levels. With the official unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, too many families are challenged to meet their most basic needs like rent, medication, and putting food on the table.  We cannot neglect the very programs which allow these families to get by.  Congress has the responsibility to take action where families are most in crisis by sufficiently funding human needs and social service programs in the federal budget. We must do so not only because it is the right thing to do but because helping families get back on their feet is good for the economic strength of individual families and communities, and for our nation as a whole. 

2.     Economic Opportunity for All: Economic opportunity is a value that defines the United States, but Congress must act if we are to transform this principle into a reality for all. Even before the recession, too many families were struggling to make ends meet, unable to lift themselves out of poverty. As the President said in his State of the Union Address, “The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years.” The FY2011 budget must not only respond to families in crisis during the recession, it must strengthen our long-term commitment to human needs and social service programs so that we can address the underlying crisis of poverty and inequality afflicting our nation even in the most prosperous of times. We urge Congress to make the long-term investments needed to combat poverty systemically and enable families to enter the middle class. This requires access to quality education, sustainable jobs with living wages, and policies that help families build assets.

3.     Intergenerational Responsibility: The gap between revenues and spending coupled with escalating health care costs and demographic shifts created a bleak outlook for our fiscal future even before the significant setback of this economic recession. With the Congressional Budget Office estimating a $1.35 trillion deficit for 2010, Congress must commit itself to protecting our children from a legacy of debt. However, in order to protect them also from a legacy of economic insecurity, Congress must refrain from balancing the budget on the backs of poor and vulnerable individuals. As the economy recovers, we urge Congress to correct the imbalance between revenues and spending and invest wisely to put our country back on solid fiscal ground. Strategies that ensure the long-term economic health of our country and our families will generate a shared recovery and a future economy that is both vibrant and sustainable. 

 Church Women United

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Lutheran Services in America

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches of Christ, USA

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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