Federal Budget Choices Must Protect Poor, Vulnerable People, Says U.S. Bishops’ Conference

April 17, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—As Congressbegan working on the FY 2013 budget and spending bills this week, the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote several letters that repeated and reinforcedthe bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circleof protection” around poor andvulnerable people and programs that meet their basic needs and protect theirlives and dignity. The bishops’ message calls on Congress and theAdministration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerablechildren and to put the poor first in budget priorities. The bishops’ lettersoppose measures that reduce resources for essential safety net programs.

In the letters, Bishops Stephen E.Blaire of Stockton, California, and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairmenof the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and InternationalJustice and Peace, respectively, urged Congress to resist proposed cuts inhunger and nutrition programs at home and abroad saying that “a just spendingbill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor andvulnerable persons.”

On April 4, Bishop Blaire cautionedthat “at a time when the need for assistance from [affordable housing] programsis growing, cutting funds for them could cause thousands of individuals andfamilies to lose their housing and worsen the hardship of thousands more inneed of affordable housing.” He also reminded Congress that the Catholiccommunity is one of the largest private, nonprofit providers of affordablehousing in the country and is deeply involved in meeting the health housing andnutrition needs of families across the nation.

Bishops Blaire and Pates reaffirmed the“moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in theirMarch 6 budget letter:

1.Everybudget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens humanlife and dignity.

2.Acentral moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least ofthese” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, withoutwork or in poverty should come first.

3.Government and other institutions have ashared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinaryworkers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economictimes…

Just solutions,however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequaterevenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressingthe long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.

InApril 16 and April 17 letters to the House Agriculture Committee and the HouseWays and Means Committee addressing cuts required by the budget resolution,Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet thesemoral criteria.” Bishop Blairealso wrote that cuts to nutrition programs such as the SupplementalNutrition Assistance Program (SNAP- food stamps) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC)will hurt hungry children, poor families, low-income workers and othervulnerable people. Additionally, he wrote that if cuts to the federal budgetneed to be made, savings should first be found in programs that target moreaffluent and powerful interests.

The housing letter is available at: https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/housing-homelessness/upload/Letter-to-House-Appropriations-on-FY-2013-2012-04-04.pdf

The SNAP/food stamps bill letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/hunger-food-nutrition/upload/Letter-to-House-Committee-on-Agriculture-2012-04-16.pdf

The agriculture spending letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/hunger-food-nutrition/upload/Joint-Letter-to-Senate-2012-04-16.pdf

The ChildTax Credit letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/poverty/domestic/upload/Letter-to-House-Ways-and-Means-on-CTC-2012-04-17.pdf

The March 6 letter on the federal budget is available at:https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Letter-to-Congress-Federal-Budget-2012-03-06.pdf

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Keywords: Federal budget, U.S. Bishops, U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop RichardE. Pates, hunger, nutrition, affordable housing, Catholic, health insurance,retirement, House Agriculture Committee, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,House Ways and Means Committee, Child Tax Credit

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