Jeff Foreman, Policy Director
The Congressional Budget Conference Committee meets this week in Washington. It’s important to think about how past and proposed “safety net” budget cuts hurt vulnerable people, especially those experiencing homelessness. This is the Committee with the goal, though frankly little expectation, of crafting a “grand compromise” ending the sequestration/budget battle, government shutdown threat and debt ceiling crisis.
Last week the nonpartisan NDD United (NDD stands for Non-Defense Discretionary, as in the domestic spending half of sequestration cuts that hurt people in our communities) released a report. They fittingly called it “How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Safe.” Their point was to put a face on the suffering and loses program cuts have caused to real people.
It’s true. In New York City, for example, housing officials had anticipated 5,000 new housing vouchers for families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. After sequestration cuts the number of vouchers went from 5,000 to 0. Zero!
In fact, not only did 5,000 families with kids lose out on affordable housing, officials have had to raise rents on many poor families already getting vouchers. The program guaranteed a subsidy for the portion of approved rent in approved apartments that exceeded 30% of the family’s gross income. That 30% cap is based on the government definition of what’s “affordable.”
Those cuts guarantee more homeless families and more homeless kids in New York. They don’t actually save money over time because it costs far more to house families in shelters than the full subsidies cost.
Some people don’t realize the 2013 sequestration cuts of 5% to affected domestic spending was on top of big 2011 cuts. If nothing changes there’ll be more automatic sequestration cuts this year, and for 8 more budgets. Those cuts would devastate America’s promise to provide a safety net for our most vulnerable neighbors – mostly kids, elderly and disabled neighbors.
It’ll slash or eliminate programs to provide health care, educate kids, get mental health and addiction treatment to those who need it ($270 million in health center cuts – like the 30 clinics Care for the Homeless operates), keep seniors with special needs in their own homes and provide decent housing for families. The Congressional Budget Office reports just the cuts so far and the automatic cuts this year will result in 900,000 jobs lost. Getting 900,000 Americans, including thousands in New York City, back to work would do more to balance the federal budget than draconian domestic spending cuts that actually create social problems.
That’s where you come in. It’s urgent you contact your members of Congress to deliver a critical message. No more cuts in programs that deliver medical care and mental health services to people who need it. Don’t decimate programs providing housing to families. Stop cutting nutrition, job training and vital programs for kids and the elderly.
These cuts are a false economy. They cost us more over time but deliver only negative results. Not to mention the cuts are inhumane and wrong.
The Congressional switchboard number is 202-234-3121. Please call today!