Cardinal Timothy Dolan made the comments in a statement issued jointly with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn to observe the feast of St. Vincent De Paul.
"St. Vincent DePaul is considered by many to be the 'star' saint of Christian charity and concern for the poor, the statement said. "Many people may not know much about this great saint from the 17th century, but know of the work of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, which is active in so many parishes and dioceses around the world bringing direct help to people in need.
"We are fortunate that as a society we do try to provide for those struggling. Government programs provide enormous support to poor Americans and generous Americans contribute billions to charities each year."
However, Dolan and DeMarzio said: "It is not enough. Even with the generosity of the American people, and the work of groups like the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and so many others, much more needs to be done, and not just by private charity. The government must continue to play its part as well."
The statement also warned there are "very dark clouds."
"Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way. At the same time, this persistent sluggish economic and slow pace of recovery does two things that hurt the poor: it does not provide sufficient jobs for poor people to earn decent living to support themselves, and it provides less resources for government to do its part for Americans in need."
The statement said the religious leaders "affirm that the poor must receive our special attention to ensure that they have basic necessities of life."
"Archbishop Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said it simply and straightforwardly: 'Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don't help the poor, we're going to go to hell,'" Dolan said.