July 25, 2013
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Members of Congress:
Across the nation, Head Start programs ended their school years early, canceled summer programs, cut staff pay and benefits, and have announced reductions in the number of children who will be served in the fall. Programs serving meals to seniors have started to reduce days of home delivery and have closed or reduced hours for dining rooms. The long-term unemployed have lost federal jobless benefits, while job-training programs that might have helped them are cut back. Federal funds for education have been cut, with particularly harsh results for schools most reliant on these resources: those on Indian reservations or near military bases. Students counting on college work-study jobs are learning that they will not get them. Poor families or people with disabilities perilously close to homelessness after waiting years for a rental voucher have been told they will have to wait longer.
These are just some of the impacts of sequestration. At a time when we need to invest in education, rebuild infrastructure, protect people from hardship, and jumpstart economic growth that finally reaches most of us, sequestration is taking us backwards.
While many are already hurting from the sequestration cuts, the appropriations levels set by the House of Representatives for FY 2014 will make their hardships even more unbearable in the future. The House of Representatives’ plan not only assumes that next year’s budget will continue the devastating sequestration reductions, but it defies the Budget Control Act’s requirement that half of the $110 billion in additional annual cuts must be imposed on military programs and half imposed on the other areas of government. Instead, the defense budget is increased by 5.4 percent, or $26 billion, over this year’s spending. In marked contrast, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education are slashed 18.6 percent below this year’s funding, including sequestration. The Department of Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development is losing 9.6 percent of its funds. Other important domestic areas are also cut deeply: energy, conservation, and environmental protection programs are cut between 11 – 14 percent. That same $26 billion defense budget increase could cover many of the cuts to these vital departments.
As a faith community, we cannot simply stand aside and allow these cuts to happen. We heed the words of Isaiah 58:10-12: “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday…you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”
We support a Faithful Budget - www.faithfulbudget.org - that helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice or using those funds to expand our defense department.
We urge you to oppose appropriations based on the House-passed levels. Congress should enact a budget that can advance fiscal responsibility while increasing support for the poor and vulnerable, by focusing on job creation and economic revitalization, an equitable tax system based on fairness, and true human security over disproportionate military spending. Together, we must be the repairers and restorers of a Faithful Budget.
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Disciples Justice Action Network
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches USA
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute Justice Team
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Union for Reform Judaism
United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society