Pope Francis Urges Congress to Take “Integrated Approach to Combating Poverty”

By Kate Skochdopole

In his address to a joint session of Congress today, Pope Francis highlighted the plight of our nation’s workers, and called on Congress to support those who struggle to make ends meet and save for the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and – one step at a time – to build a better life for their families,” he said. “These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society.”

Pope Francis went on to acknowledge that we’ve come a long way in the fight against poverty, as have many other countries, but made clear there is still much work to be done on both a national and global scale.

I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.”

One way our country is working to address this issue is through Government safety net programs such as tax credits for working families, which provide a short-term financial boost to low-income workers who simply don’t earn enough to make ends meet.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) together lifted 10 million Americans, including 5 million children, out of poverty in 2014.

Unfortunately, key provisions of the EITC and CTC are due to expire in 2017 unless Congress extends them, meaning 16 million hard-working families could lose all or part of their credits and fall into or further into poverty. Advocates have been working hard to press Congress to include these measures in the tax extenders bill expected this fall.

Should Congress take the Pope’s words to heart and seek ways to confront poverty in the United States, protecting these vital tax credits from harmful cuts would be a good place to start.