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Dear Mr. Leader:
Since September 11, Americans have come together to help meet our national needs in this time of great crisis. They have given more than $1 billion to disaster relief efforts and many Americans have volunteered their time. Although individual generosity is evident everywhere, thousands of our Nation's charities, paradoxically, have been suffering. Donations to organizations not directly involved in disaster relief have declined dramatically. Soup kitchens are low on food. Mentoring programs for needy children are low on dollars. America's charities have stood by America -- it is now time for America to stand by her charities, as they suffer from the economic consequences of September 11.
I believe the Congress must address these issues now. We must pass and sign into law an "Armies of Compassion" bill this year that encourages and supports charitable giving, removes unneeded bar-riers to government support for community and faith-based groups, and authorizes important initiatives to help those in need. The House of Representatives has already advanced key elements of this agenda, and Senators Santorum and Lieberman have made great strides on consensus legislation. I believe the Congress needs to come together before recess to consider a bill that would:
- Provide incentives for charitable giving, such as the non-itemizers deduction for charitable contributions, tax-free distributions from IRAs, the charitable deduction for contributions of food, and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to help low-income individuals save money;
- Provide for equal treatment of community and faith-based charities, an expedited process for grassroots groups to become 501(c)(3) organizations, and a Compassion Capital Fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building for community and faith-based groups; and
- Provide support to populations in need, such as the more than 2 million children with a parent in prison.
As you know, there is strong bipartisan support for these important measures. I hope that the Senate will find time to take up and pass these provisions before the Congress adjourns this year.
GEORGE W. BUSH
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