Increase In Poverty Impacts Children, Families
The U.S. Census Bureau, as expected, announced today that poverty levels had grown to their highest level since 1994. "There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase," said the Bureau. These numbers reflect the first year of the Obama presidency and the height of the Great Recession. The presidency of George W. Bush, whose economic policies were in full effect when President Obama took office, saw increases in the poverty rate during each year of his tenure in office after declines during the Clinton-Gore administration.
These numbers reflect real human suffering and a moral crisis faced by our nation. Economic policies that have benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and those living in poverty have pushed our nation to the brink of economic collapse. Only President Obama's stimulus plan kept America from falling off the cliff.
Obviously, more needs to be done. President Obama ran on a pledge to cut poverty in half in ten years. The Half in Ten Campaign - endorsed by the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Center for American Progress, among others - offers a road map on how to achieve that goal. We need the President's forceful advocacy to help dramatically reduce poverty in America. Sadly, the minority party in Congress has worked to advance the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration and have promised to extend those policies if given the opportunity.
Thursday morning the federal government is expected to announce the biggest increase in poverty levels since 1959. Oregonians are feeling the pinch. "Due to extraordinary community need, we opened up our family shelter earlier than expected this week. We were full within the first 3 hours. By the end of the day there were already 6 families on the waiting list," said The Rev. Kate Lore, Minister for Social Justice at First Unitarian Church. "This has never happened before--not even close." First Unitarian Church hosts the Thirteen Street Family Center, a program of Portland Homeless Families Solution.
Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury noted the increase in poverty levels and called on members of Oregon's Congressional delegation to push for additional federal assistance. "Without President Obama's stimulus plan we'd be in worse shape but we need Congress to act quickly to get additional funding for programs that help lift people out of poverty," said Kafoury. "To begin with, I call on members of our House and Senate delegations to endorse the Half in Ten Campaign (http://halfinten.org/) - the ambitious national effort to cut poverty in half in ten years. We've been cutting programs at the county level for ten years. Without federal help more families will become homeless."The Half and Ten Campaign Offers four principles for reducing poverty:
Promote Decent Work. People should work and work should pay enough to ensure that workers and their families can avoid poverty, meet basic needs, and save for the future.
Provide Opportunity for All. Children should grow up in conditions that maximize their opportunities for success; adults should have opportunities throughout their lives to connect to work, get more education, live in a good neighborhood, and move up in the workforce.
Ensure Economic Security. Americans should not fall into poverty when they cannot work or work is unavailable, unstable, or pays so little that they cannot make ends meet.
Help People Build Wealth. All Americans should have the opportunity to build assets that allow them to weather periods of flux and volatility, and to have the resources that may be essential to advancement and upward mobility.
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People of faith in the United States must hold the president and Congress accountable for addressing this growing crisis. No one should be forced to live a third world life in a first world country.