Monday, June 20, 2011

Federal Budget Cuts Could Affect Area Poor

The US House approved 13% cuts in nutritional assistance, cuts to meals for low-income seniors, and cuts to food banks around the country. The vote was taken last Thursday. Congressman Sam Graves voted for the cuts. It would also cut the WIC program, which includes pregnant women and children under 5. This was part of the 2012 Ag Appropriations Bill.
Mary Jo Fletchall of Community Services in Worth County said that the extent of the cuts would depend on whether they would involve administrative cuts or actual cuts to the programs themselves. She said that there was a lot of fluff that could be cut. However, she said that the fear was that they would have to limit participation in their programs, which would really create a hardship. A lot would depend on how the various agencies would absorb the 13% cuts. In a news release, Congressional leaders maintained that such cuts could be made without affecting services and that strong programs could still be maintained with less money.
The Republican Congress has maintained that the cuts are necessary in order to achieve deficit reduction. However, the bill now goes to the Senate. The actual cuts may not be as much given that the Democrats control the Senate; this means that there would have to be some sort of compromise on the cuts and where they would be made.
There are risks that Congress is taking should the cuts target the actual programs themselves as opposed to administrative staffing. The risk is that less aid for preventative health services such as WIC, other nutritional assistance programs, cuts to food banks, and aid to low income seniors would result in more long-term health care costs, meaning that the risk is that Congress is sacrificing long-term benefits in return for short-term benefits. House Republicans have maintained that such actions are needed because the US has reached the debt ceiling, meaning that they cannot go into debt like they have in the past. However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities maintains that the deficits are actually caused by the Bush tax cuts as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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