Domestic Human Needs, an ecumenical faith-based working group, has expressed the need for action by the faith community in terms of the 2007 federal budget, reports the Brethren Witness/Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board.
The 2007 federal budget will be finalized in the upcoming “lame duck” session of Congress, following the election. The budget calls for a cut in domestic human needs programs so that more money can be allocated for defense, said an Action Alert from the office.
The alert listed how budget cuts will impact domestic human needs programs:
–Job training and vocational programs help to make work pay for families struggling to make ends meet, and are a great investment in the future workforce. For the fifth year in a row, in the 2007 budget job-training programs have been slated for cuts. According to the AFL-CIO, the Employment Services program alone now serves over 5 million fewer workers than in 2001.
–The Head Start program helps provide stability and opportunity for young children to learn. The proposed $6.789 billion is $140 million less than the program would need to even provide a 2006 level of service, the action alert said. A 1.1 percent cut in budget would mean an additional loss of $75 million and would mean 19,000 fewer children are able to attend Head Start.
–The number one priority for low-income working families is child care, primarily provided through the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Since the year 2000, an estimated 250,000 children have lost child care assistance because of both direct cuts and erosion in services due to inflation. Instead of reversing this trend, the fiscal year 2007 proposal cuts child care by another $43 million. This will likely cause another 11,000 children to lose assistance.
–Pell Grants help low- and middle-income students around the country apply themselves and learn their way to better lives. For fiscal year 2007, Pell Grants are funded at $12.6 billion, $725 million below the 2006 level plus inflation. A 1.1 percent cut would mean an additional loss of $139 million. According to the AFL-CIO the current purchasing power of a Pell Grant is less than half of its value compared to 1978-80.
–The National Institutes of Health provide medical research and promote readiness and care for a number of diseases and public health risks. For fiscal year 2007, the institutes are funded at $28.6 billion, $351 million below even the 2006 level plus inflation. A 1.1 percent cut would mean an additional loss of $315 million.
The Church of the Brethren 2000 Annual Conference statement, “Caring For the Poor,” states “that congregations [should] use their experience in ministry with the poor to inform themselves of the legislative and political issues having impact on the poor and speak to those issues with their legislators at local, state, and national levels.” A sample letter that can be used as an outline to send to a local newspaper, or to members of Congress in response to these budget cuts, is available from the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, 337 N. Carolina Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20003; 800-785-3246; firstname.lastname@example.org.