December 23, 2008
Oregon Advocates Urge Congress to Aid States and Prevent Worsening of Poverty
With a congressional debate on the scope of a federal economic recovery package nearing, Oregon advocates urged lawmakers to aid states facing serious revenue shortfalls and protect vulnerable populations from falling deeper into poverty.
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In a letter to Oregon’s congressional delegation, the advocates called for an economic recovery package that provides $100 billion to states like Oregon facing budget crises, plus additional funding for anti-poverty programs.
“The recession has sliced state revenues, undermining what could be a stabilizing force in the economy,” wrote the coalition of Oregon human services providers and advocates and business and faith organizations.
Oregon’s most recent revenue forecast projected a $1 billion shortfall in the upcoming budget period.
“Should the revenue shortfall lead to sharp cuts in state services,” the letter warned, it would “exacerbate an already harsh recession by reducing the flow of dollars through the state economy.”
The coalition also expressed concern that the current, severe downturn could lead to sharp rises in poverty and destitution. They noted that the Oregon Department of Human Services recently reported that the number of households receiving food stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is up 13 percent and 16 percent, respectively, over the past year.
“With unemployment rising, the pressure on working families and public assistance programs will increase,” said Janet Bauer, policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Public Policy, one of the signatories of the letter. “That’s why it’s imperative that the economic recovery package include spending measures that will help stave off large increases in severe poverty in Oregon.”
Such measures include a $26 billion increase for anti-hunger programs such as food stamps over the next two years; the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to part-time and temporary workers, who currently get no benefits if they are laid off; additional rental assistance through a $3.6 billion increase in housing vouchers; and a strengthened Temporary Assistance to Needy Families contingency fund, which risks running out of money.
All of these anti-poverty measures provide “a large bang for the buck, infusing important new spending into the economy,” according to Bauer.
“Fortunately, Congress doesn’t have to choose between effective economic stimulus and protecting our most vulnerable populations,” said Bauer, “because the same measures accomplish both.”
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan research institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.