Poor People’s Campaign Congressional Briefing
September 22, 2022
Statement from the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
My name is Mariann Budde and I serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, a geographic region of our denomination which encompasses all of the District of Columbia and four of the most populous Maryland counties.
Within this region are some of the most affluent communities in the nation, and some of the poorest. There are children who attend the finest schools that money can buy, and others consigned to schools that are understaffed and woefully under-resourced. Some families live in luxury; others in rat-infested apartments and, in the rural areas, in homes with no running water or electricity.
This region boasts of some of the finest restaurants and grocery stores, which everyone in this chamber has enjoyed, and yet food insecurity is pervasive not only among those who are homeless and unemployed, but also among the working poor. In one such program run out of one of our churches, 1100 families depend weekly on distributions of food; in another, located in what appears to be an affluent neighborhood, hundreds of people line up each week for an allotment of two grocery bags. Most who seek this assistance work are working more than one job, yet do not earn a living wage.
Every day, we as clergy must decide whom we will serve. And I daresay, so do you.
The economic disparity in our nation, that has shockingly increased over our lifetimes, is the root cause of nearly every one of our society’s seemingly intractable problems. It is the result of public policy decisions made under the undue influence of those who stand to benefit most from that disparity.
We are not naive. Those who benefit from the policies as they are would prefer, and work hard, to keep those consigned to poverty silenced and invisible. But this movement exists to ensure that they will not be kept silent–and neither will we.
We are here to remind you of your sacred duty as elected officials of this democracy.
Specifically, we are here to speak in one voice, asking you to take a position before the midterm elections on three critical issues: voter suppression, designed to keep those most adversely affected by economic disparities out of our political process; legislation to ensure a living wage for those who work hard each day and often through the night, and still do not earn enough to meet basic needs, and to simply to extend the policies proven to have lifted millions of families out of poverty–namely the child income tax credit.
Why on earth would we consign families to poverty again, when a change in policy and resource allocation had such a life-affirming outcome? It is not cruel; it is short-sighted.
We are asking you to be brave. We are asking you to lead, to address the shameful disparities that public policies and laws have created, and that public policies and laws can correct.