WASHINGTON – Religious leaders and heads of faith-based organizations across the United States gathered for the National Religious Leaders Roundtable on Poverty, Nov. 24. Citing the rising poverty rates in the nation, the leaders called on the future presidential candidates to emphasize the poverty-related priorities during their campaigns next year.
"We are here today to set a road map for making poverty reduction an election-year issue," said Jim Wallis, convener and president of Call to Renewal, a national network of churches, faith-based organizations and individuals working to reduce U.S. poverty, which convened the gathering.
James Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, asserted that a presidential electoral focus on poverty in the United States is critical.
"We need to know if they will alleviate and overcome poverty," said Winkler of the candidates’ political positions on the issue. "Will they support a minimum wage that is livable? Will they support the child tax credit refund for the poor? Will they increase TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Family] funds?
"Anti-poverty measures need to be in front of these candidates," he said.
The round-table agenda included increasing the level and eligibility for the food stamp program and the Earned Income Tax Credit, extending the child tax credit to low-income people, bolstering TANF funds, and the Bush administration’s Faith-Based Initiative. Delegates ended the consultation with a dialogue of the critical issues raised in the Democratic National Committee presidential candidates’ debate in Iowa.