In letters sent yesterday to Oregon’s five-member Congressional delegation, twenty-four service providers, advocacy groups, and religious organizations in Oregon have expressed concern regarding proposed Congressional cuts to safety net services that help working families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
The US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a budget reconciliation package Thursday that cuts $54 billion from domestic programs over the next five years. The cuts will disproportionately burden poor Americans, including low-wage working families.
The proposed House budget bill would deny food stamps to 225,000 individuals across the country who currently qualify under rules that are aimed to help individuals and families who work in very low-wage jobs. The rules targeted for elimination have reduced Oregon’s hunger rate. Oregon’s children may doubly suffer, since they may lose access to school breakfast and lunch programs, as well, under the budget plan.
“Last year, food stamps enabled thousands of working Oregonians to have nutritious meals. The cuts proposed by the House threaten the significant progress we have made against widespread hunger in our state,” said Kim Thomas of Oregon Food Bank. “The food pantries in our network work hard to address short-term emergency food needs. They would be hard-pressed to help the large number of additional working families who will need food assistance if this policy is approved.”
Efforts to promote work among low-income Americans would be undermined by the House bill. The proposal would provide inadequate child care funding to support families in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) program who are complying with new work rules.
“A budget that pulls the child care rug out from under people as they try to work themselves out of poverty is seriously flawed,” said Jessica Stevens of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon.
The House bill would make major changes in Medicaid – the nation’s health care safety net – that would affect affordability, eligibility, and benefits for working families, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
“The bill would allow unaffordable premiums and co-payments for most people with incomes just above the poverty line and would eliminate the guarantee of preventive care for children in these families,” said Janet Bauer of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.
The House bill would also impose new costs for prescription drugs on children and pregnant women below the poverty line. The advocates called the new costs “unaffordable.” Co-payments for prescription drugs will be particularly hard on people with disabilities whose need for multiple maintenance drugs is typically high.
The groups noted that children take multiple “hits” under the House budget plan. Child support enforcement funds would be slashed, resulting in the loss of approximately $237 million in child support payments to Oregon’s children over the next ten years.
Abused or neglected children now living with relatives would also suffer under the budget plan. Proposed changes would force very vulnerable children to lose the support of federally funded foster care assistance. “Relative foster care is one of the most supportive, stable and culturally appropriate options for abused and neglected children,” said Tina Kotek, Children First for Oregon. “These changes show that the House budget writers are out of step with the American people.”
Despite recent news that poverty and food insecurity are up nationally and health insurance coverage is down, Congressional proposals do not ask for sacrifice from upper income Americans, according to the Oregon groups. The House and Senate are expected to take up consideration of budget bills later this month that provide $70 billion in tax breaks that primarily benefit wealthy households and increase the national debt.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy uses research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social opportunities of all Oregonians.