Due to the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, the World Bank estimates that in 2021, we will see the first rise in global extreme poverty in 20 years. This reverses a steady decline of extreme poverty in the world due to U.S. aid and the efforts of many non-governmental organizations. The impacts of COVID-19 are expected to cause between 143 million and 163 million people to fall into poverty just this year.

Oregon will feel the effects of this rising catastrophe. Oregon is home to thousands of refugees relying on the help of a stranger, learning in a classroom or owning their own businesses.

Now is the time for our state’s U.S. senators to advocate for an increase in international poverty-reducing development and humanitarian assistance in fiscal year 2022. The innovative programs that this funding supports can help ensure that decades of development gains are not lost because of the pandemic. Just as we and our senators cannot ignore the pain of those who suffer from homelessness and wildfires, neither can we ignore the plight of refugees.

The U.S. currently spends less than one half of 1% of the total budget for poverty-reducing aid. These funds support programs working to end world hunger and malnutrition. We have seen the positive effects of funding for vital humanitarian programs.

In addition, we have principled concerns with providing taxpayer funding for activities inconsistent with our Catholic faith and basic human rights. Therefore, we strongly urge Congress to maintain the Helms Amendment in fiscal year 2022 appropriations. It prohibits the use of U.S. funded foreign assistance for abortion. The United States has followed this law since 1973 and we are asking to maintain the status quo.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, take the lead in securing additional aid for these essential life-saving programs.

Matt Cato

Southwest Portland