Thanks to you, some good news on the budget; but more advocacy ahead!
Thanks to your thousands of e-mails, calls, faxes, letters and personal visits to Congress over the last several months, we helped prevent deeper proposed cuts to life-saving and poverty-fighting services around the world. The poverty-focused international assistance accounts that fund services such as disease prevention, food, clean water, and shelter to our brothers and sisters in need as well as ways for poor people to lift themselves out of poverty through education, health, and agricultural development were seriously at risk of drastic cuts. But, rather than the originally proposed 27 percent reduction in funding, the poverty-focused international assistance accounts were cut by a little more than 8 percent—still a significant cut, but not as catastrophic as originally proposed.
Unfortunately, food aid was cut by more than 11 percent. Food aid helps people who are hungry due to droughts and other disasters and also promotes long-term development by using it as an incentive to employ improved agricultural techniques. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has used food aid successfully in India, providing food to poor people as an incentive for them to implement soil and water conservation on their farms. This effort resulted in an average 100 percent increase in yields per acre and a more than three foot rise in the water table.
Other notable reductions include:
• A nearly 19 percent cut to the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) that invests in countries demonstrating high standards of accountability, civic engagement and investments in their people.
• A more than 15 percent cut to our nation’s contributions to international peacekeeping operations that will seriously limit our ability to help sustain peace in war-torn regions of the world.
USCCB and CRS were pleased that cuts in international family planning (which we do not support) seemed to allow child survival and health services to be increased moderately. But food aid and the MCA had originally been targeted for cuts of 41 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
CRS and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are now focusing attention on the FY 2012 budget process that is already under way. Please see the recent letter from Bishop Stephen Blaire, the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Howard Hubbard, the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, to the House of Representatives on the FY 2012 House Budget Resolution. The bishops voice serious concerns for poor and vulnerable people at home and overseas. The bishops support fiscal responsibility, but insist that it be done in morally responsible ways that protect people living in poverty.
CRS and the USCCB also recently submitted testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the FY 2012 international assistance budget, urging Congress to preserve the $20 billion in funding requested by President Obama for the poverty-focused international assistance accounts.
There is no question that Congress faces difficult choices in light of growing deficits and that we must find a way to bring our financial house in order. However, we must consider the demands of justice and the moral obligations to future generations; controlling future debt and deficits; and protecting the lives and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable.
With the recently passed FY 2011 budget seen as a marker, and deep cuts to poverty-focused international assistance in the House-passed FY 2012 budget resolution, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that careless cuts to services that save lives around the world, lift people out of poverty, end conflict and build peace are minimized.
Please join us in our continued advocacy toward a moral budget that balances fiscal responsibility with addressing the needs of our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters at home and around the world.
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