WASHINGTON (May 23, 1997) -- The Campaign for Human Development (CHD), the Catholic Church's domestic anti-poverty program, is distributing $169,150 in matching grants to low-income groups and coalitions working together to positively affect the implementation of federal welfare reform laws at the state and local level.
The grants, ranging from $5,000-$20,000, will be distributed to 14 organizations in 11 states and be used to engage in immediate coalition-building efforts designed to give poor people a voice as states develop their welfare plans. [A complete list by state of all the projects that received grants.]
Father Robert Vitillo, CHD executive director, announced the new grants in Washington. "We are pleased that CHD is able to support groups and coalitions working to diminish the punitive effects of federal welfare reform laws on the nation's poor and needy citizens, " Father Vitillo said. "During this year when we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Bishops' Pastoral Letter, Economic Justice for All, we must renew our efforts to defend the life and dignity of all persons in society, especially of those who are most vulnerable," he added.
"In awarding these grants," Father Vitillo explained, "a high priority was given to projects that involve direct collaboration between and among organized groups of poor people and Catholic organizations such as state Catholic Conferences, Catholic Charities agencies, diocesan social action offices and their legislative networks."
Grants noteworthy for combining grassroots and Catholic collaboration went to:
- Catholic Charities of California (CCC), which received the maximum grant of $20,000. CCC and the Fair Share Network (FSN) of California, will conduct a short term organizing project to involve low-income persons, service providers and the larger Catholic community in the state's welfare restructuring. CCC and FSN will organize grassroots advocates to 1) educate and influence state and federal policy makers, 2) document and publicize representative stories of persons to be negatively impacted by the new welfare laws, and 3) build awareness and linkages within the Catholic community about the implications of specific welfare measures.
- The Catholic Conference of Ohio, which received $20,000 for Project Response, a joint venture co-sponsored with the Ohio Empowerment Coalition and the Have a Heart Coalition. Project Response will provide assistance and resources on a statewide level for coalitions working for effective public assistance policies. This project will 1) strengthen existing and emerging coalitions working for welfare reform; 2) provide for the related travel, training, and child care expenses of mobilizing people to attend statewide conferences and legislative days; 3) support media awareness and education efforts of the coalitions; and 4) sponsor three regional meetings.
- The Washington State Welfare Reform Coalition, which received $16,650 to hire an organizer for two months to mobilize action statewide aimed at securing reform measures that are effective, compassionate and realistic. The Coalition, a statewide alliance of more than 50 religious, advocacy and service organizations, also will use grant money to contract with a public relations firm to mount an educational effort aimed at overcoming stereotypes and misconceptions about welfare and SSI recipients.
Low-income groups receiving funds include:
- Valley Interfaith and Triangle Interfaith of Texas, which will receive $12,000 and $8,000 respectively, to continue organizing among congregation members and leaders. The groups are advocating that the state redirect money saved from reducing welfare rolls into long term job training. CHD funds will also be used to help defray the expense of bringing people to large rallies at the state legislature in Austin.
- Philadelphia Unemployment Committee (PUP), which received $10,000 to fight for meaningful work opportunities for welfare recipients and other unemployed people of Pennsylvania. It will hold press conferences and organize rallies to push for just treatment of welfare recipients subject to workfare requirements, and for passage of legislation providing for public employment of limited duration as a transition to private sector employment.
Under CHD's welfare reform initiative, more than $330,000 is still available to be allocated in a second round of funding. It features grants of $35,000-$50,000 to be used for groups' longer term efforts, such as monitoring the impact of current reforms, advocating additional reform measures, and promoting just wage and work opportunities. Applications were due May 15.
Funding for CHD's welfare reform initiative comes from monies raised during the Campaign's twenty-fifth anniversary year and targeted for new initiatives. The Campaign's ongoing grant- making and justice education programs are supported through an annual collection in Catholic parishes throughout the country (on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, in most dioceses). In 1996 the Campaign distributed nearly $8 million in national grants to 263 low-income groups. Similar grants will also be made later this year.
The Campaign for Human Development, founded by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1970, is the nation's largest private funder of projects that empower the poor and work to eliminate poverty and injustice. Grants are distributed based on need, not religious affiliation.
For further information about the CHD Welfare Reform Initiative contact the Campaign for Human Development, 3211 Fourth St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017. Fax (202) 541-3329. Phone: Douglas Lawson (202) 541-3379 or Steve Callahan (202)541-3376