House Ways and Means
Committee to Mark Up Bill
BACKGROUND: The Senate passed the Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act of 2003 (CARE Act, S. 476) on April 9; now attention turns to the House. On September 4, 2003 the House Ways and Means Committee will mark up the Charitable Giving Act of 2003 (H.R. 7), intended to be the companion bill to the CARE Act.
We are pleased that H.R. 7 includes three provisions from the CARE Act that have been a priority for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) and the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA): (1) allowing non-itemizers to claim charitable deductions on their taxes to spur additional private giving; (2) creating a Compassion Capital Fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building for faith-based and community groups, and (3) authorizing $33 million to establish group maternity homes for young mothers
However, H.R. 7 does not include a fourth and crucial -- priority provision in the CARE Act: restoring $1.3 billion in funding to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program. States use SSBG funds to assist faith-based and community groups, like Catholic Charities, that serve working families, abused and abandoned children, persons with disabilities, and the frail elderly. Restoring funding to the level promised in 1996 is crucial, especially given our faltering economy and the severe fiscal crises facing the states. Government must continue to provide support, including adequate funding, for the religious- and community-based charities that work hard everyday to help "the least among us," if we are to maintain and strengthen the partnership between the federal government and the charities that do this important work.
The USCCB recently joined with CCUSA and CHA in a joint letter to the members of the Ways and Means Committee, which is attached and on our website.
ACTION REQUESTED: Call or visit your Representative, especially if he or she is on the Ways and Means Committee, while they are home for the August Recess, to send the message that you'd like the Committee to add $1.3 billion for SSBG to H.R. 7, and pass out a bill that includes all four of our priorities from the CARE Act.
Ways and Means Committee members: Chairman Thomas (CA),Crane (IL), Shaw (FL), Johnson (CT), Houghton (NY), Wally Herger (CA), McCrery (LA), Camp (MI), Ramstad (MN), Nussle (IA), Johnson (TX), Dunn (WA), Collins (GA), Portman (OH), English (PA) Hayworth (AZ), Weller (IL), Hulshof (MO), McInnis (CO), Lewis (KY), Foley (FL), Brady (TX), Ryan (WI), Cantor (VA), Ranking Member Rangel (NY), Stark (CA), Matsui (CA), Levin (MI), Cardin (MD), McDermott (WA), Kleczka (WI), Lewis (GA), Neal (MA), McNulty (NY), Jefferson (LA), Tanner (TN), Becerra (CA) Doggett (TX), Pomeroy (ND), Sandlin (TX), Jones (OH).
Find your Representative's local phone numbers in the blue pages of your phone directory, or their Washington offices through the Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121
Contact your Governor and the leaders of your state legislature and urge them to let the White House and the House of Representatives know that the full SSGB funding in the CARE Act is absolutely crucial for states and their ability to provide needed services to their citizens.
USCCB POSITION: See Economic Justice For All, November, 1986; Moral Principles and Policy Priorities for Welfare Reform, March, 1995; and letters from USCCB, including joint letters with Catholic Charities USA, most recently on August 5, 2003.
For more information: Kathy Curran, 202-541-3188, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.usccb.org/sdwp
August 5, 2003
Ways and Means Committee
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
We are writing regarding the Charitable Giving Act of 2003, H.R. 7, which we understand the Ways and Means Committee will consider on September 4, 2003. We are pleased the bill includes three provisions from the Senate-passed CARE Act, namely:
- 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.
Many supporters of the work of faith-based organizations were disappointed that the "equal treatment" language was dropped from the CARE Act. We share in that disappointment, and 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.
But even without that language, the CARE Act's approach of ensuring additional private AND public resources will be available to serve the needy is still crucial for faith-based organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and despair. As early backers of the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives proposal, we are firmly in favor of strengthening the partnership between the federal government and community-based and faith-based organizations in that struggle. To sustain that partnership, it is imperative that government provide support, including adequate funding, for the religious and community based charities that work hard everyday to help "the least among us."
We hope that you will support adding the restoration of SSBG funding to H.R. 7, and that all four of these important provisions will be included in the House-passed companion bill to the CARE Act. We 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.
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chairman Domestic Policy Committee
Rev. J. Bryan Hehir
Catholic Charities USA
Rev. Michael D. Place, STD
President and Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Health Association of the United States