CWS relieved at 2011 U.S. funding 'saves' but warns of 2012 aid cuts disaster

CWS appreciates President Obama's commitment to reduce the federal budget in ways that preserve America's historical commitment to the most vulnerable among us. However, concerns remain over the looming 2012 budget battle and the possibility that a 30 percent cut in humanitarian and poverty-focused foreign aid is proposed for the next fiscal year.

Washington, D.C. — Humanitarian agency Church World Service has voiced appreciation for President Obama’s address to the nation today expressing his commitment to reduce the federal budget in ways that preserve America’s historical commitment to the most vulnerable among us.

The global agency also expressed relief over the agreement reached by the President and Congress on Friday that narrowly averted a government shutdown and withstood proposed massive cuts in FY2011 to domestic hunger programs and assistance to hungry and impoverished people in developing countries.

But CWS said it is now turning attention to the looming 2012 budget battle and raised grave concerns over the possibility that a 30 percent cut in humanitarian and poverty-focused foreign aid is proposed for the next fiscal year.

Following President Obama’s address on the deficit, CWS Executive Director and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough commented, "The President’s vision called for a more balanced approach to reducing the nation’s debt in a manner that preserves ‘the basic social compact’ with the most vulnerable Americans, ‘protects the middle class, our commitment to seniors, and our investments in the future.’

"We hope that Congress will enact 2012 budget legislation that follows this lead and protects assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable at home and abroad," McCullough said.

This morning, prior to Obama’s address on the deficit, CWS’s McCullough sent a statement to members of the House of Representatives and Senate expressing appreciation that, although last week’s 2011 deal "cut $8 billion from international affairs funding, the spending agreement preserves most of the assistance for our impoverished and vulnerable global neighbors at close to 2010 levels."

McCullough said Church World Service was relieved that Congress had "heeded concerns" that proposed deep cuts to foreign assistance "would cost many lives and undermine long-term global human security."

Turning to 2012 funding, in his letter to lawmakers on the Hill, McCullough warned, "The budget proposal by the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee would reduce international funding by nearly 30 percent.  Such cuts will have devastating results.

"If Congress enacts this proposal, millions of additional people will go hungry.  Countless more children will lose their lives to preventable and treatable diseases."

This afternoon, following President Obama’s announced deficit strategy, McCullough added, "A 2012 budget that might delete up to one third of assistance to the world’s poorest would not start a good deficit reduction program off on a balanced footing."

Contrary to a widespread but mistaken view, humanitarian and poverty-focused foreign aid are less than 1 percent of the total federal budget.  "Drastic cuts in this area will not help to solve the budget crisis," said McCullough.  "Poor, hungry and vulnerable children and adults did not cause the budget deficit, and the poor need not and should not have to suffer as a result.  America is better than this."

In his letter to Congress, McCullough stated deep worries that recent progress in development in poor countries could be reversed if major cuts in 2012 funding are enacted.  "For example, U.S. government help will dry up for women farmers ... to become more productive and feed more people," he said.  Women make up the majority of the rural farm force in developing countries.

On the domestic side of the 2012 budget, McCullough noted that analysts have estimated that about two-thirds of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s multiyear proposal would come from assistance for low-income Americans.

"As an agency focused on assisting people in the U.S. and in poor countries to become self-reliant and food secure, Church World Service urges members of Congress to reject these proposed cuts for 2012 and maintain a robust commitment to assisting our hungry and impoverished neighbors," McCullough said.

This afternoon, President Obama referred to changes in the tax code as part of his approach to reducing national debt.  CWS’s McCullough agrees.  Instead of slashing domestic and foreign assistance, Church World Service proposes that the "wisest and fairest ways to reduce the deficit are to cut unnecessary and duplicative military spending and to reduce the special tax breaks for the very wealthy," in parallel with a rigorous government focus on jobs creation within the U.S., which, McCullough said, "will put more people back to work and restore American prosperity.

"We call on Congress to support robust funding for our neighbors in the U.S. and around the world who are struggling to overcome hunger, poverty and homelessness.  That’s the right thing to do; it’s right for America; and it is right for the world," he said.

In President Obama’s words today, "It’s about the kind of country we believe in."  He said, "There has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. ... Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security."

Church World Service is a faith-based relief, sustainable development and refugee assistance agency that for more than 65 years has worked in the U.S. and abroad to end hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world.

See complete text of Church World Service Executive Director John McCullough’s letter to Congress.

Contact your members of Congress and tell them to oppose deep cuts to international poverty programs for FY2012!


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