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BOSTON, MA--- Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy discussed the challenges of poverty at Wheaton College upon receiving the “Otis Social Justice Award,” which is awarded to individuals who enhance the understanding of peace, human rights and economic opportunity. Kennedy shared his views of how the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina shined a spotlight on the economic and social injustice that persists in our communities and the work that remains unfinished. He outlined his fight for an increase in the minimum wage which has kept millions of working men and women in poverty, unable to achieve the American dream despite their efforts to work hard and play by the rules. He also discussed his war on poverty and his determination to cut child poverty in half within this decade. “Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic issue. It’s a women’s issue. It’s a civil rights issue. It’s a family issue. But – perhaps more than anything – the minimum wage is a moral issue.” Senator Kennedy said. “Over the last five years the Bush administration has done a lot for the powerful and the wealthy. They have done a lot for corporate America. But they have done little to provide for the working people who are struggling to survive.” Kennedy has led the fight to increase the minimum wage in the U.S. Senate, but has been blocked at every turn by Senators who continued to turn a blind eye. In the aftermath of Katrina, he offered a minimum wage amendment to the transportation appropriations bill last month and the measure was defeated. Since the last increase in 1997 costs of health care, education, housing, home heating and fuel have skyrocketed, leaving many families left out and left behind. Also since this time, members of Congress have raised their own pay eight times. Next week, Senator Kennedy will join in a conference hosted by the Center for American Progress to address the groundswell of grassroost support for an increase in the minimum wage and in the activity happening across the country to push state initiatives through. This month, Senator Kennedy joined national religious leaders in Washington, DC to announce the “Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign.” This grassroots effort will team religious and community leaders with legislators to do right by the American worker and finally raise the minimum wage through ballot initiatives throughout the country. Frustrated by federal inaction, the “Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign” teamed over 50 religious and community groups with legislators to fight for an increased minimum wage through ballot initiatives on the ground in 2006. The minimum wage hasn’t increased since 1997, yet Americans increasingly feel the squeeze of the Bush economy. Americans are spending 74 percent more on gas than they did at the beginning of 2001. Heating oil prices are expected to rise by 56 percent this winter. Such rapid price increases will force consumers, especially the poor, to cut spending on clothing, health care and food just so they can get to work and keep warm this winter. The minimum wage was intended to ensure the working Americans would not have to make choices between heating and health care. Instead, our stagnant minimum wage has done the opposite and left even those with multiple jobs desperately straining to make ends meet. Kennedy believes that we must marshal all our resources to combat poverty and he believes that cutting it in half within this decade is an attainable goal. To do this, Kennedy offered an amendment to the Tax Reconciliation bill earlier this month that would require a one percent surtax to be paid by our wealthiest citizens in order to take care of the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. With the 3.5 billion dollars generated from the one percent tax, the Child Poverty Elimination Fund will be created in order to combat child poverty in America where it starts--in the homes of low-income Americans looking for a way to feed their hungry children. The amendment failed in the U.S. Senate. Today, nearly one child in six is living in poverty. Nearly 37 million men, women, and children in the United States now live below the poverty line‹an increase of over 4 million since President Bush was first elected. The poverty rate for children in the United States is substantially higher – often two to three times higher – than that of most other major Western industrialized nations. And the number of Americans living in hunger and malnutrition has soared to almost 37 million.Wheaton College is dedicated to the value of community, integrity diversity and service. Each year, the “Otis Social Justice Award” has been awarded to those who promote these values and enrich the understanding of peace, world hunger, human rights and economic opportunity. Past recipients of the award include former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, school reform advocate Jonathan Kozol and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.