Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – applauded this afternoon’s announcement of bipartisan legislation to be introduced in the U.S. Senate that will generate new private support for America’s charities and increase the federal government’s spending on social welfare programs. The “Charity Aid Recovery & Empowerment” [‘CARE’] Act is designed to implement the next stage of President Bush’s “Armies of Compassion” initiative which seeks to ensure that government policies and resource allocations support the social welfare work of faith- and community- based organizations.
The provisions of the CARE Act include: a tax deduction for non-itemizers ($400 for singles/$800 for couples); allowing individuals to rollover their IRA assets to a charity without paying tax on the gains accrued in the IRA; a larger tax deduction for food donation; increasing the amounts that corporations can contribute to charity; increasing federal social welfare allocations under the Social Service Block Grant; and making more level the federal social welfare grant playing field for faith-based agencies by protecting some elements of their religious character, offering technical assistance programs and easing some application criteria.
The CARE Act was developed over the course of months of discussion between the White House and Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Rick Santorum (R-PA). The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations has been a long-time supporter of religious liberty and the faith-based initiative, and was involved in these discussions as well. Harvey Blitz, president of the Union, and Nathan Diament, the Union’s director of public policy, issued the following statement in connection with the announcement of the CARE Act’s details:
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations applauds the bipartisan CARE Act. This consensus package is a leap forward in the drive to have public policy support the work of America’s faith & community based charities with a new infusion of private and public resources. Its provisions will also begin to ameliorate bureaucratic inequities under which faith-based charities have been forced to operate for decades. In the wake of September 11th, Americans have appreciated even more the critical role that faith & community charities play in our society, but combined with our economic downturn, America’s charities are facing an unprecedented strain on their resources. The CARE Act will ease this crisis. We applaud the leadership of President Bush and appreciate his passionate commitment to this effort. And we applaud the determination of Senators Lieberman and Santorum to find legislative common ground so that we may serve the common good.