Three weeks until federal spending cuts

The “fiscal cliff” issues drag on in Washington. There are three impending financial deadlines coming up: going over the nation’s statutory debt limit, which could mean no money to operate government (or even pay bills already incurred); the end of current federal appropriations, meaning no authorization to spend which would force a shutdown of “non-essential” government functions; and the so-called “sequestration” requiring a cut of 8.2% to almost all domestic programs and much of the military, which as now scheduled to happen in 3 weeks. This isn’t just an argument over money or ideology. These programs are life-and-death, or at least life altering, necessities for many millions of Americans.
Don’t forget, for many of the federally funded programs these decisions will affect any cut this year comes on top of significant cuts last year that already stained budgets and stretched safety nets.
Care for the Homeless Executive Director Bobby Watts made that plea to our representatives in Washington. He told them proposed automatic cuts will create 146,000 homeless people by a $159.7 million cut in HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grants. Cuts to Section 8 Rental Assistance of over $1.5 billion will affect over 186,000 tenants. Slashing $8.2 million from Runaway and Homeless Youth Act funding and taking e $5.5 million from Transition from Homelessness projects will put people in the streets. Reducing Health Care for the Homeless funding by millions means denying vital health services to truly needy Americans. Cutting HUD rental assistance by $30 billion, impacting 428,000 households, means unbearable hardships for people already suffering.
The irony is that no one, Republican or Democrat, thinks across-the-board cuts are good policy. The OMB report on sequestration in September said sequestration was “…a mechanism to force Congress to act on further deficit reduction” but “sequestration itself was never intended to be implemented.” 

Ending homelessness should be a bipartisan concern. Cutting federal funding and creating more homeless people or slashing their medical care and social services does not save money. It just shifts costs in an even more expensive and less effective way. It‘s morally unacceptable and financially inefficient. It makes us less productive and robs people, many of them children or elderly, of their dignity in a way that will harm communities and individuals for generations.

We all want to get past the “fiscal cliffs.” But not just any solution to avoid confrontation is acceptable. We need to find a way to avoid sequestration that holds the least influential poor and homeless Americans, many of them frail or disabled, harmless, and get to work on a plan to prevent and end homelessness in America. Our clients have no powerful lobbyists to look out for them in Washington. They have only their grass roots advocates and their representatives in Congress. 

-Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy at Care for the Homeless

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