When the Congress returns from recess on March 28, discussions will continue on funding for FY2011. Currently, federal government programs are operating under a continuing resolution, or extension, until April 8. Congress has a short time frame to reach an agreement on spending levels for the current fiscal year or face the possibility of a government shutdown.
Faced with the dilemma of reducing the deficit, Congress has to make some tough choices in their spending decisions and as a result funding for many programs that service those in need are at risk of elimination or significant reduction . Under HR 1, the House-passed proposal, some of the programs hardest hit are the Women Infants and Children (WIC), Juvenile Justice, and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) as well as a proposed cut of 50 percent to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP).
While Members of Congress work to make decisions related to the federal budget, over 45 million Americans are living in a crisis of poverty, relying on the worn safety net system threatened by many of the potential budget cuts. While it’s clear that for our economic stability as a nation, federal spending has to be cut, addressing spending alone is not the answer.
We continue to urge Congress to ensure that those in need are not affected disproportionately by federal cuts to critical services.
Take Action Now! Urge members of Congress to preserve poverty-focused domestic and international assistance in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution. Please:
- Write to your members of Congress;
- Call 1-866-596-7030 for talking points and to be connected to your members’ office; and
- Visit your members in their district office.
Fiscal responsibility is important, but it requires shared sacrifice, not disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons.
Why is action important now? The Congress extended the time it will take to consider the final FY 2011 Continuing Resolution by passing another short-term spending bill that will keep most federal government agencies and programs operating on last fiscal year’s funding levels until April 8. We must now make the most of the time we still have to make sure Congress listens to our concerns.
Background: The last Congress failed to pass the required legislation that funds the federal government, its agencies and programs for the current fiscal year that ends on September 30, 2011. Instead, Congress has passed a series of short-term spending bills. The House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution for FY 2011 that would cut funding for poverty-focused international assistance programs by nearly 27%, far more than the under 3% cut in the overall budget.
But don’t we have to control government spending? USCCB and CRS agree that in times of fiscal restraint there should be shared sacrifice; but the cuts proposed to poverty-focused international assistance programs are disproportionate. In a recent letter to the Senate, Bishop Hubbard, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace Office and CRS President Ken Hackett, wrote: “Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable. It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad. … In times of fiscal restraint, shared sacrifice demands that the entire budget be examined, including defense.” Most Americans think foreign assistance constitutes 25% of the federal budget and want to cut it to 10%; but in actuality it is only 1% of the federal budget. Serious efforts to reduce the deficit must look at the whole budget.