Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Budget Cuts Already Afffect Some Local Assistance Programs

You probably heard by now that Congress made some deep cuts to the 2011 and the 2012 budgets, and many of the cuts involve reductions in funding for public-assistance programs.  Proponents (Tea Party Republicans) are throwing out many phrases and concepts being thrown out there to justify the cuts, such as reduce the size of government, balance the budget, live within our means.  How can the richest country in the world not have money to help the most vulnerable in society?

To illustrate the impact of the cuts, we can easily find several local examples.  An article in this morning's Albuquerque Journal describes how a sharp reduction in the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program is going to limit the ability of social-service organizations, including St. Martin's Hospitality Center (where my wife Karen is a Client Advocate), to serve the homeless and near-homeless population.  The program, in place since 1983, has disbursed more than $3.7 billion in more than 2,500 counties and cities since it began.

Illustration by Kelli Fischer
In New Mexico, funding is being reduced by 40% this year (from $885,000 to $545,000), leaving many social-service organizations in a bind.  To make matters worse, the formula is being changed so two of our most populated counties, Bernalillo (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe, are not elegible for funds this year.

It means we can’t assist people who are near homeless with their utilities. It means that shelter services such as showers, clothing and storage will be cut,” Vicky Palmer, associate executive director of St. Martin’s told The Journal. “It’s so depressing that the people who are the most marginalized are having to pay for this shortfall.”
If you have a subscription to the Journal (either through direct delivery or online), click here to read the full article.

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