Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Broad Budget Spending Bill Likely This Week

Editor's Note: The Senate passed the omnibus spending bill, with a vote of 72 to 26, on Jan. 16.

Food aid line
Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S.food-aid items are carried out by private relief and development organizations. Yearly funding levels for U.S. food aid is set through the appropriations process (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World).

By Amelia Kegan

In the final month of 2013, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, providing some relief from sequestration over the next two years and averting a fiscal crisis, but failing to extend emergency unemployment benefits for long-term job seekers. The budget act essentially sets the size of the spending pie, determining overall dollar amounts for broad spending categories—defense, agriculture, and others. As we ease into the first weeks of 2014, the congressional committee working on budget appropriations must divvy up that pie and set funding levels for individual programs — including programs that address hunger.

The committee has already been doing this work, but largely in private. The public will learn what they propose very soon. Bread for the World will analyze how key priority programs that fight hunger and poverty – Head Start, WIC, poverty-focused foreign assistance, and others – are funded. 

Tomorrow, the continuing resolution that programs are now funded through expires. Reports indicate Congress will pass another short extension – likely three days – to keep the government open, giving the House and Senate time to vote on a final omnibus appropriations bill, a broad spending bill which is expected to include all 12 appropriations bills. Unfortunately, reports also indicate an extension of emergency employment for long-term job seekers will not be included in the package.

Thank you for continuing communications with your members of Congress to make sure programs vital to hungry and poor people are protected and funded to their fullest levels. As a policy analyst who meets with members of Congress regularly, I hear from them that your calls, emails, and letters do make an impact. My job is easier, and my message has more traction, when a member of Congress, or one of their staffers, tells me they have received messages from their constituents.

Last month, Christian leaders representing the Circle of Protection, of which Bread for the World is a member, wrote a letter to remind the budget negotiators of the “need to prioritize programs that address poverty and hunger in the U.S. and around the world.” You can read the full letter here. “The federal budget should reflect a government that provides hope, opportunity, and a place at the table for all,” they wrote to Senate and House appropriators, “especially for those struggling at the margins of society.”

We will continue to urge members of Congress to pass an emergency unemployment extension and adequately fund programs that work to end hunger. To find out more about appropriations, and how other legislation that affects hunger is progressing in Congress, join me and my colleagues, including Bread for the World President David Beckmann, for our National Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar today at 4:00 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT).

Amelia Kegan is deputy director of the government relations department at Bread for the World.


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