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CARE Act 2003 - Letter to Congressman Blunt

 

May 6, 2003

The Honorable Roy Blunt
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

Dear Representative Blunt:

We are writing regarding the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act (CARE Act), which the Senate recently passed on a strong bipartisan vote of 95-5.  We understand that you are planning to introduce soon a version of the Senate's CARE Act, and we urge you to include in your bill four provisions of the Senate bill that are particularly important because they provide crucial assistance to charities and the people they serve:

  • Restoring $1.3 billion in funding to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program
  • Allowing non-itemizers to claim charitable deductions on their taxes to spur additional private giving
  • Creating a Compassion Capital Fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building for faith-based and community groups
  • Authorizing $33 million to establish group maternity homes for young mothers.
While we were disappointed that the "equal treatment" language was dropped from the Senate bill, the CARE Act as passed by the Senate is still a crucial bill for faith-based organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and despair.  We will continue to support efforts to ensure that religious groups can be effective partners with government and community organizations in providing social services, without jeopardizing their identity and integrity or undermining the rights and dignity of those in need. 

The CARE Act's restoration of Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funding to levels promised in 1996 (but since eroded) is a key part of the CARE Act, especially given our faltering economy and the severe fiscal crises facing the states.  As you know, states use SSBG funds to assist faith-based and community groups that serve working families, abused and abandoned children, persons with disabilities, and the frail elderly.  We were deeply disappointed to learn that the Administration has signaled its opposition to this aspect of the CARE Act. 

As early supporters of the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives proposal, we believe strongly that both the private AND public resources provided in the CARE Act are needed to strengthen the partnership between the federal government and community-based and faith-based organizations in their common goal of ending poverty and despair.  It is imperative that government continue to provide support, including adequate funding, for the religious and community based charities that work hard everyday to help "the least among us." We strongly affirm the principle that the work of such groups can complement but never replace the government"s responsibility in assuring that the basic needs of all Americans are addressed. 

We hope that you will include all four of these important provisions in a House companion bill to the Senate-passed CARE Act, and look forward to working with you for swift enactment of legislation to provide faith-based and community charities that serve the poor with desperately needed new public and private resources.

Sincerely, 

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir
President
Catholic Charities USA

Rev. Michael D. Place, STD
President and Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Health Association of the United States



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