Faith Groups: Federal Budget Must Focus on Poverty, Unemployment

The U.S. federal budget must address issues of poverty and unemployment, an interfaith coalition said on Friday in response to reports of nearly 20,000 jobs being cut in January.

"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," wrote the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN), a group that includes delegates from the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A (NCC), the National Council of Jewish Women, and Catholic social justice group NETWORK.

"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."

Several policy initiatives were proposed by the coalition, including focusing on the creation of sustainable jobs, allocating resources for worker retraining and education, and addressing the affordable housing crisis.

Other proposed initiatives included the providing of $1 billion annually in new investments for child nutrition programs and an expansion of targeted tax benefits for low-income, working families.

The group also noted three values its budgetary and legislative priorities are grounded in, including meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable, creating economic opportunity for all, and being responsible for future financial outlooks.

In addressing intergenerational responsibility, the statement said: "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."

The group's statement follows government reports on Friday which announced an overall drop in unemployment in January by 0.3 percent to a total of 9.7 percent, but also revealed that an additional 20,000 jobs were lost.

President Obama called the report a "cause for hope but not celebration, because far too many of our neighbors and friends and family are still out of work," and said that he would support legislation that will help to increase hiring.

Obama has also proposed measures to help expand small businesses, including bolstering community banks with a $30 billion package.

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