Policy Focus: The Sequester
Policy Makers Must Work Together to Reduce Hunger Now and End It Altogether Within a Generation
March 1 marked the launch of "A Place at the Table: Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters." This year, we are doubling our effort on behalf of hungry people. We are calling for a comprehensive, united plan to end hunger. And we are continuing to call on lawmakers to protect vital anti-hunger programs—especially during budget negotiations.
- The Presidential Campaign: We are petitioning the President to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger.
- The Congressional Campaign: We are writing letters to Congress urging our legislators to protect programs that effectively reduce hunger and help people move out of poverty. We are also asking Congress to work with the president on plan to end hunger.
Both campaigns are important, and we are urging our members — and all people — to participate in our efforts to reduce hunger now and effectively end it altogether within a generation.
On February 12, the President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and was the most vocal he has been about this country's need to address poverty in the United States and around the world: "You know, in many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades ... ."
The president also stressed reducing poverty in the United States. He reiterated that message a few days later in Chicago:
"If we gather together what works, we can extend more ladders of opportunity for anybody who's working to build a strong, middle-class life for themselves. Because in America, your destiny shouldn’t be determined by where you live, where you were born. It should be determined by how big you’re willing to dream, how much effort and sweat and tears you’re willing to put in to realizing that dream."
While the president continues to publicly appeal for the policies and priorities outlined in his State of the Union address, Congress remains focused on the approaching across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration. The cuts will total $85 billion for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year, with nondefense yearly appropriated programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) facing a 5.3 percent cut. Without congressional action, the cuts will hit nearly every federal program indiscriminately — although, fortunately, many low-income programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the refundable tax credits, child nutrition programs, and Medicaid are exempt.
If sequestration occurs, 600,000 WIC recipients will lose benefits. Meals on Wheels, a federally assisted program, will have to eliminate 4 million of the meals it serves to seniors. According to estimates from the National Economic Council, 70,000 children will be kicked out of Head Start, and more than 100,000 formerly homeless people will lose their eligibility for housing and emergency shelter.
On the international side, the cut would mean more than $1.1 billion less for PFDA—resulting in 605,625 fewer children receiving nutritional interventions; 1.17 million fewer farmers and businesses in poor countries receiving support from Feed the Future; 234,000 children losing access to school feeding programs under the McGovern-Dole program; 2.1 million people losing access to lifesaving food aid; and 5.13 million fewer people receiving life-saving HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria prevention and treatment interventions.
Members of Congress have drafted proposals to avoid the across-the-board cuts. Senate Democrats have proposed a mix of spending cuts, including agriculture subsidies and revenue increases. Senate Republicans have suggested replacing the cuts with different ones or giving agencies flexibility to determine where to cut.
Bread for the World continues to urge Congress to replace sequestration with a balanced package that protects programs for hungry and poor people while raising adequate revenue to fund these priorities.
Photo caption: If planned sequestration cuts occur, Meals on Wheels will have to eliminate 4 million of the meals is serves to seniors. Photo © Meals on Wheels