WASHINGTON — The number of
people in poverty in America increased to its highest recorded point last year,
and the poverty rate rose to its highest level since 1994, new statistics show.
The Census Bureau released
data Thursday (Sept. 16) that showed a significant annual increase in poverty,
rising 1.1 percentage points to 14.3 percent in 2009. A total of 43.6 million
live in poverty – the highest since recording began in 1959 — and up from 39.8
million in 2008.
As result of the ongoing
financial crisis, social service programs such as Catholic Charities USA are
faced with the challenge of increased needs from individuals and working
families, budget cuts and a decrease in individual donations.
Catholics Charities served
more than 9 million people in 2009, and reported a 10 percent increase in need
for nutrition, housing and financial services.
Larry Snyder, president and
CEO of Catholics Charities, said that while the statistics were staggering,
they did not come as a surprise to those who work with people in poverty on a
“These numbers are further
proof that as a nation it is time to re-examine our failing system of safety
nets,” said Snyder.
David Beckmann, president of
the anti-hunger group Bread for the World, echoed Snyder’s concern, calling “the
faithful to get off the couch and change the politics of hunger and poverty.”
While government leaders are
eager to support the rich and middle class, they are leaving the poor behind,
said Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches.
“Our political leaders’
calculated neglect of the poor while courting the votes of the comfortable
offends the Creator of the universe,” Kinnamon said. “Any measures taken should
not only stimulate the economy but benefit everyone, especially those living on
the economic margins.”