Hunger advocate: Budget impasse is hurting the poor
By Lynn Hicks on October 16, 2013
The government shutdown is hurting poor people, and it will only get worse next year if the impasse over the federal budget continues, said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
Beckmann, the 2010 World Food Prize laureate, spoke to reporters while negotiators in Washington moved toward a compromise over ending the shutdown and extending the debt ceiling. The House and Senate are expected to vote today.
“If we fail to get an agreement, it will be very bad news for all of us, especially hungry people,” he said. Beckmann’s group calls itself a “collective Christian voice for the hungry.”
“I’m praying the House and Senate pass the Senate-developed compromise package today,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Bread for the World is calling for Congressional leaders to replace the sequester with a long-term deal. Such a deal should include a new farm bill with no cuts to food stamps, Beckmann said.
The House version of the farm bill contains a $40 billion cut to the SNAP, or food stamp, program. Senate .. If negotiators agreed on a $10 billion cut in SNAP, that’sequivalent to two years of food charity in the U.S., Beckmann said.
As high unemployment persists, “it’s not the time to cut SNAP. If it’s included, we’ll try to stop the farm bill,” he said.
The sequester is already hurting the hungry and poor with cuts, and those will increase after Jan. 15 unless a deal is reached, he said. Programs that are already affected include Head Start and Meals on Wheels, and those cuts will grow. Others that could be affected include the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program and agriculture development aid for Africa.
Beckmann called on a bipartisan budget deal that includes “modest cuts” to middle-class entitlement programs – such as adjustments to Medicare for higher income people and adjustments to Social Security – as well as tax increases. He acknowledged that both are politically distasteful.
“If don’t have tax increases of some kind, we’ll be taking away food from kids,” he said.