On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a spending bill to fund the federal government through the remainder of 2011, cutting about $60 billion in spending over the next seven months as compared to current spending levels.
"The spending bill approved by the House includes significant cuts to programs that protect low-income families," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America, the country's largest domestic hunger relief organization."If this spending plan is approved, many of the people served by Feeding America's network of food banks are likely to experience increased hardship, and food banks will have a harder time meeting the need in their communities."
Included in the spending bill are $779 million in cuts to nutrition assistance programs including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which serves primarily low-income seniors, and WIC, which serves low-income women, infants, and children. One in ten seniors and one in four children nationwide are at-risk of hunger.
To see The CSFP program in action, view"Inside a CSFP Food Distribution."
"I am especially concerned by the $20 million cut to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides a nutritious monthly food basket to our most vulnerable seniors," Escarra said."The proposed funding cut will not only prevent the program from being able to add new participants in a time of rising need, the program will lose nearly 81,000 slots from current caseload."
"$20 million is a small part of our $3.5 trillion federal budget, but the monthly food package that this funding supports makes a real difference in the life of a senior living on less than $14,000 per year," Escarra said."Furthermore, because the program provides a $50 monthly retail value to participants but only costs the government about $20 to provide, we know that the program not only is needed but is a highly efficient use of federal dollars."
Many seniors are already are choosing between food and other basic needs. According to Feeding America's study, Hunger in America 2010, 30 percent of client households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care and 35 percent had to choose between food and paying for heat/utilities.
In addition to direct cuts to benefits for low-income households, the House bill includes cuts to programs that help food banks distribute food through local agencies, pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. The Emergency Food and Shelter Program, Community Development Block Grants, and Community Services Block Grants all would receive sharp funding reductions under the House plan.
The Senate is expected to introduce and consider its version of the FY2011 spending measure when Congress returns from recess the week of February 28. The continuing resolution under which programs are currently operating expires March 4. Congress must work out differences between the House and Senate spending bills or pass another short-term continuing resolution before March 4 in order to continue funding federal programs.
"Feeding America urges the Senate to pass a bill that addresses the budget deficit while protecting the programs that protect low-income people," Escarra said."Programs that make up the federal safety net, including nutrition programs, provide a lifeline to struggling families and absolutely must be off the table for budget cuts."
Funding levels for key programs in the House-passed FY2011 Spending Proposal
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