WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups called on the U.S. government to increase poverty assistance in the wake of a sharp rise in the number of Americans living at poverty levels.
The Census Bureau released estimates Sept. 16 showing that the number of Americans living at poverty levels increased from 39.8 million in 2008 to 43.6 million in 2009 — one in seven Americans and the largest number since the government started tracking poverty levels 51 years ago.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called for passage of the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, with improvements.
"Our nation’s leaders must take a proactive approach to end this suffering by protecting human needs programs from further cuts, creating sustainable jobs, and clearly supporting one piece of legislation that we’ve made a signature concern — a robust Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act which provides both funding for access and improved nutrition," the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups said in a statement.
The Jewish Federations of North America, one of six national groups that manages the Emergency Food and Shelter program, called for increased assistance for the program, which provides supplemental assistance to nonprofits that provide emergency food and shelter.
"We cannot allow a tighter budget to jeopardize the essential aid that we provide," the federations’ umbrella said in a statement. "The Census Bureau’s report, along with the nation’s unemployment rate, record number of foreclosures and other indicators, is just one more example of why EFSP and other social safety net programs are essential. Congress has routinely shown great support for these programs, and during this difficult economic period, we encourage members to increase their support."
The National Council for Jewish Women called the rising rate of poverty a "national disaster."
"NCJW calls upon Congress and the President to do everything in their power to mitigate the effects of this disaster by prioritizing policies to combat unemployment and strengthen the safety net," the group said in a statement.