Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram – A month ago, Pope Francis told Congress of his admiration for working folk striving “each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and — one step at a time — to build a better life for their families.” Read
Then, rather than accepting the invitation of the U.S. Congress to dine with the powerful of the land, he instead joined the table of those served at a homeless shelter.
Francis modeled the mutual relations we should have with those who have fallen on hard times.
Here in West Virginia, we witness every day the quiet, dignified struggle of those in precarious circumstances.
We see the strength it takes when a parent working full-time still has to fight to make ends meet.
We see the perseverance it takes for families to juggle multiple jobs, care for children and find ways to pay for the basics, like reliable child care and car payments.
Like Francis, we should honor these struggles.
Groups such as Catholic Charities can provide aid for our impoverished fellow citizens, but good policies can reduce the need for such support.
The Catholic Conference of West Virginia has been delighted with the impact of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) upon the families of hard working West Virginians.
These policies put hundreds of millions of dollars into the budgets of working families. The EITC and CTC allow everyday people — like janitors, home health aides and cashiers — to go to work, support their loved ones and keep more of what they earn.
Unfortunately, unless Congress acts, key provisions of these pro-work, pro-family policies are set to expire. If this happens, the threat to West Virginians already on the brink is clear.
Approximately 40,000 West Virginians would be pushed into, or deeper into, poverty. This number includes 18,000 children, who will have a more challenging start at life because of the financial security from the credits that their families will lose.
The EITC and CTC lift more children out of poverty than any other program. Congress must not allow such valuable policies to lapse.
Some of our legislators in Washington are talking about making a few business tax provisions permanent.
As a matter of justice and moral duty, Sen. Manchin, Sen. Capito and the rest of the West Virginia congressional delegation should work to make the EITC and CTC improvements permanent as well.
The debate over taxes also presents an opportunity for Congress to patch the gap in the EITC for low-income adults without children and young people just starting out, who currently receive little to nothing from the EITC.
These workers are the lone group the federal tax code actually taxes into poverty. They deserve a fair shot, too.
In his inaugural homily, Pope Francis said, “I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another ….”
This powerful exhortation finds a worthy response in policies like the EITC and CTC that are proven to reduce poverty.
Let us ensure this means of proclaiming good news to the poor.
Rev. Brian O’Donnell,
West Virginia Catholic Conference
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