Thursday, March 31, 2011

The ESPC in Washington, DC

ESPC joins effort to oppose budget cuts that threaten recovery
Appeals to Congress to promote economic security of families

Here’s the basic argument we’re making to Wyoming’s Congressional delegation as they move forward on the current effort to put together a FY 2011 budget deal. Congress needs to reach the deal before an April 8 deadline, when current temporary spending authorizations expire and we could all see a shutdown of government.

As our political leaders struggle to meet this deadline, we’ve joined other advocates from around the country in Washington, D.C. to warn Congress about the impact of cuts that threaten the economic security of families and senior citizens.

We spoke with Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso Wednesday morning and will meet with Congresswoman Lummis’ staff this afternoon (March 31). Other groups from around the country will meet with their members of Congress as part of a three-day organizing meeting hosted by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), a national organization that works to achieve economic security and independence for families.

The cuts proposed in the House budget will require cutbacks in basic federal programs like Head Start. The demand for these services is high. The Early Head Start and Head Start programs on the Wind River Reservation have a waiting list of 140 kids. Others around the state serve many families.

In Wyoming and nationally, the proposed federal budget spending reductions will slow job growth and weaken the already tenuous ability of millions of families and seniors to make ends meet. We contend that cutting programs that are helping families and senior citizens stay afloat is short-sighted and jeopardizes their economic security.

Leading economists are projecting a loss of 700,000 jobs nationwide if the most recent House spending bill for fiscal year 2011 (HR1) is enacted, according to Wider Opportunities for Women. The potential deal is a moving target subject to intense partisan politics. National Public Radio reported this morning that a proposal seeking more than $30 billion in cuts has been offered by Democrats. The proposal that the House put on the table several weeks ago, passed on strictly partisan lines, includes $61 billion in cuts. We’ll see if that gap can be bridged.

The proposed budget passed by the House includes billions of dollars in cuts to job training, education, elder assistance programs. Slashing these budgets will directly affect families, communities and the nonprofits that serve them in many ways, such as:
  • Eliminating volunteer programs including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America. According to Serve Wyoming, the House budget eliminates funding that supports 1,900 people of all ages and backgrounds who help meet local needs, strengthen communities, and increase civic engagement through 33 national service projects across the state;
  • Cuts to Head Start, special education (IDEA) and schools in low-income communities;
  • 44 percent cut to the Community Services Block Grant program, which provides nutrition, employment, health and other necessary services to over 20 million, including low-income and disabled people. Programs like the Downtown Clinic in Laramie would be affected, depriving many of care that helps keep them out of the emergency room where their care costs much more.
  • Cuts to Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which many Wyoming families depend on to stay warm in winter;
As the nation struggles with a slow recovery that is producing few jobs, we hope the Wyoming delegation and Congress will propose solutions that create jobs and don’t undercut the middle class.

Yesterday, Sen. Enzi said that the budget talks are going on at a very high level with little opportunity for other members to offer their ideas. He said senators are unlikely to be given any opportunity to offer amendments when and if a budget deal is reached.

We still believe that as members of the very tight circle that is the Senate, the Wyoming senators certainly can let their negotiators where they stand on programs essential to the economic security of the working families walking the edge of financial disruption and even ruin.

Note on the photo: Sen. John Barrasso speaks with Wyoming visitors in Sen. Mike Enzi's office in the Russell Senate Office Building. Wyoming's senators meet with constituents visiting Washington every Wednesday morning.