Safety Net Programs Face Crisis in Washington

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy
It might seem like déjà vu but we’re in another fiscal crisis of our own making in Washington. The House and Senate have been unable to agree on at least three major funding items that are critical to the country.

  • First, there’s the budget. In recent years it’s become usual to miss budget deadlines (the new fiscal year started October 1st) but keep the government going by passing temporary “Continuing Resolutions” to continue funding government at current levels until something is agreed to. In today’s hyper-partisan and frequently nonfunctional environment, short term resolutions add little optimism of reaching a real agreement. They just kick the can down the road, and not very far either.
  • Second, the federal government will reach its debt limit, possibly in days but certainly no more than weeks, compounding the problem. The government can’t legally spend more than its debt limit. So reaching the debt limit doesn’t stop debt accumulation, it just stops the government from paying the bill.
  • Third, there’s the ongoing issue of sequestration and cutbacks to critical safety net programs. Even though the federal deficit is declining, fairly quickly, there’s still an argument raging about cutting the national debt. Last year’s dramatic domestic spending sequestration cuts came on top of substantial 2011 cuts.

Funding for affordable housing, low income housing tax credits and grants for health care and other services for homeless people are far below recent years’ levels and way below the actual need.  But there are efforts to cut the safety net even more for the most vulnerable.

The SNAP program is an example. SNAP is current name for what most people call food stamps. There’s no agreement on funding. There are four legislative proposals and none of them are very good.

The Senate passed an agriculture bill cutting SNAP by $3 billion over a decade. The House tried to pass a $20 billion cut, but many members wanted a bigger cut! A third plan removed SNAP from the agriculture bill, but supporters wouldn’t  go along because it might mean no SNAP re-authorization. Finally the House passed a $40 billion SNAP cut.

Take Action

Protect the poor and vulnerable. 
Call your Members of Congress – in the House and Senate – today and urge them to protect SNAP and what’s left of America’s safety net for vulnerable people. 
You can reach your Members of Congress through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
 Please call today!  

These are critical issues to us, but we’d be very interested in knowing what you think about these issues. Please let me know by e-mailing

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