In a surprise decision that raises questions about how the church can continue to raise money while still maintaining its focus on the poor, a Denver-based charity has donated $2.2 million to the Catholic Charities of Colorado (CCCC) since it started a campaign to support families struggling to find jobs.
The money was pledged on Wednesday to the state’s largest nonprofit group, which provides food and medical assistance to more than 2.4 million poor people in Colorado and a dozen other states.
In recent years, the church has made a point of providing food and financial aid to families with children.
But this campaign is the first of its kind to take advantage of a church policy that lets it pick up a portion of donations for its programs and its operations.
“The church has been able to take the initiative to pick up donations that the government can’t pick up,” said Christian Smith, the president of the Colorado Catholic Charitable Association.
“It’s a very powerful statement that the church is in the business of helping people.”
The CCCCC announced the decision in response to the growing awareness that the Catholic Church is a major source of income for the poor in the state.
Colorado is one of the poorest states in the nation, according to the Census Bureau, and many people don’t have enough money to get by.
According to the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average household income for a family of four in the United States is just $20,000 a year.
Citing the “disparate impact” of the recession, the Colorado Department of Revenue estimated that nearly 3.2 percent of Colorado households received no money from the state in 2011-12.
Many low-income families have lost their jobs, have stopped paying rent, and are in debt because of the economic downturn, said CCC spokeswoman Lauren M. Wurz.
To keep families afloat, the CCC has offered food and housing assistance to the poor for years.
Wurz said the donation is part of a broader effort to help the poor.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will be giving $50 million in cash assistance to families in need through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the end of October.
But Wurs said the CCDCC will still have to do some fundraising and will be required to keep track of the new money it has collected.
Last year, the Denver-area charity helped provide nearly half a billion dollars in food to people in need, including the family of a 7-year-old who was born with a congenital heart defect that required him to have a pacemaker.