Modern "good Samaritans". Tax exempt religious leaders

preach to government about how to spend tax money.

From- Washington Post National Weekly Edition

27 Feb-5 March, 1995

page 20 [two page ad]

"Facilitated by- Interfaith Impact Foundation 110 Maryland Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20002 For more information on the religious community's position and work on welfare reform call- [202] 543-2800"

[about 700 names surround this ad]


As people of faith and religious commitment, we are called to stand with and seek justice for people who are poor. Central to our religious traditions, sacred texts, and teachings is a divine mandate to side with and protect poor people. We share a conviction, therefore, that welfare reform must not focus on eliminating programs, but on eliminating poverty and the damage it inflicts on children [who are 2/3 of all welfare recipients], on their parents, and on the rest of society.

We recognize the benefit to the entire community of helping people move from welfare into the job market when possible and appropriate. We fear, however, that reform will fail if it ignores labor market issues such as unemployment and an inadequate minimum wage and important family issues such as the affordability of child care and the economic value of care-giving in the home. Successful welfare reform will depend on addressing these concerns as well as a whole range of such related issues as pay equity, affordable housing, and the access to health care.

We believe that people are more important than the sum of their economic activities. Successful welfare reform demands more than economic incentives and disincentives. It depends on overcoming both biased assumptions about race, gender, and class that feed hostile social stereotypes about people living in poverty and suspicions that people with perspectives other than our own are either indifferent or insincere. Successful welfare reform will depend ultimately upon finding not only a common ground of policies, but a common spirit about the need to pursue them for all.

The following principles neither exhaust our concerns nor resolve all issues raised. The principles will serve nonetheless as our guide in assessing proposed legislation in the coming national welfare debate. We hope they may also serve as a rallying point for a common effort with others throughout the nation.

An acceptable welfare program must result in lifting people out of poverty, not merely in reducing welfare rolls. To achieve this we believe Welfare Reform must .....

Provide adequate benefits. The federal government should define minimum benefit levels of programs serving low income people below which states will not be permitted to fall. These benefits must be adequate to provide a decent standard of living.

Create family-sustaining jobs. Welfare reform efforts designed to move people into the work force must create jobs that pay a livable wage and do not displace present workers. Programs should eliminate barriers to employment and provide training and education necessary for inexperienced and young workers to get and hold jobs. Such programs must provide child care, transportation, and other ancillary services that will make participation both possible and reasonable. If the government becomes the employer-of-last- resort, the jobs provided must pay a family-sustaining wage.

Remove disincentives to work. Disincentives to work should be removed by allowing welfare recipients to retain a larger portion of wage earnings and assets before losing cash, housing, health, child-care or other benefits.

Increase flexibility. Work-based programs must not impose arbitrary time- limits. If mandated, limits must not be imposed without availability of viable jobs at a family-sustaining wage . Even then, some benefit recipients cannot work or should not be required to work. Exemptions should be offered for people with serious physical or mental illness, disabling conditions, responsibilities as caregivers for incapacitated family members, and for those primary caregivers who have responsibility for young children.

Provide simplification and "one-stop shopping" for benefits. Welfare reform should result in a program that brings together and simplifies the many efforts of federal. state and municipal governments to assist persons and families in need. "One-stop-shopping centers" should provide information, counselling, and legal assistance regarding such issues as child support, Job training and placement, medical care, affordable housing, food programs and education.

Exclude no Child. Welfare reform should acknowledge the responsibility of both government and parents in seeking the well-being of children. No child should be excluded from receiving benefits available to other siblings because of having been born while the mother was on welfare. No child should be completely removed from the safety net because of a parent's failure to fulfill agreements with the government. Increased efforts should also be made to collect a proper level of child support assistance from non-custodial parents.

Be adequately funded. Programs designed to replace current welfare programs must be adequately funded. It must be recognized and accepted that these programs will cost more in the short-term than the present Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program. However, if welfare reform programs are successfully implemented, they will cost less as the number of families in need of assistance diminishes over the long-term. In financing this effort, funding should not be taken from other programs that successfully serve poor people.