Presss Release: Catholic Social Justice Lobby Releases New Data on Poverty during the Economic Downturn

For Immediate Release: July 19, 2010
Contact: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224,

Washington DC: NETWORK today released its new report on how people in poverty have been affected by the recession and high unemployment. Based on surveys conducted at emergency facilities across the country, the report, entitled TANF Tested: Lives of People in Poverty during the Recession, tells the real-life stories of people who struggle to put food on their tables and find jobs. Despite the fact that many are eligible for government program assistance, large numbers of families in poverty are unable to get what they need.

Since TANF was created in the 1996 welfare reform law, NETWORK has evaluated its effectiveness. We have interviewed thousands of families over the years and published reports based on our surveys in 1999 and 2001, during times of relative prosperity. Despite economic growth in the nation during the 1990s, we found considerable suffering and poverty. Today, during a period of great economic distress, the stories of families in poverty are more compelling than ever.

From February to March 2010, NETWORK surveyed people at 70 emergency service agencies where they sought help, including food pantries and homeless shelters. Adult members of more than 800 families that included 1300 children were personally interviewed. Our new report based on our findings provides information about their day-to-day lives and the struggles they face.

Key findings include:

  • Since the recession began, government programs have provided limited assistance to people who lost their homes or livelihoods, but families at the very bottom of the economic ladder have not received sufficient help from one of the major programs meant just for them—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  • TANF’s “Work First” emphasis is problematic during periods of high unemployment and low wages.
  • Food stamps (SNAP) and other nutrition programs don’t reach enough families in need.
  • Limited access to education and quality job training keep unemployment rates high.
  • Many people face more than one barrier to employment, including transportation, child care, disability, domestic violence, and language barriers.

The report also includes recommendations about how our nation can more address poverty more effectively, including investment in human needs programs, better coordination of services, appropriate help for people facing multiple barriers to employment, and more emphasis on education and job training.

NETWORK—a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace—educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation. Founded in 1971 by 47 Catholic sisters, NETWORK is supported by thousands of groups and individuals committed to working for social and economic justice. For more information, see


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