Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

23 posts categorized "Sequestration"

SNAP Safe For Now, But Automatic Cuts Loom in Budget

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The joint budget resolution for the 2016 fiscal year includes deep cuts to anti-hunger programs.  (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

By Robin Stephenson

The House and Senate are close to finalizing a deal for the overall parameters of the 2016 fiscal year budget. The joint budget resolution, with deep cuts to anti-hunger programs, could be ratified by votes in the House and Senate this week.

“It’s a budget that fails to prioritize the most vulnerable, but there is a silver lining:  Thanks to our advocates, the joint resolution does not include reconciliation instructions to the agriculture committees,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

In the final compromise, instructions were not included that would have put SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) directly on the chopping block.

“This is good news,” said Kegan. “It postpones our fight to protect SNAP. SNAP is always vulnerable and continues to have a target on its back, but this gives us some breathing room.” On the other hand, reconciliation instructions still leave Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit potentially at risk.

However, given that 69 percent of the cuts put low-income people at risk, Kegan warns there is still much work to do. “The decisions of what programs get funded and what programs get cut is part of a complex process. There will be a few key opportunities and threats over the next five months in particular,” she said.

A budget resolution sets the top-line numbers for annually appropriated programs – the overall size of the pie that is then sliced up in what is called the appropriation process. Those slices fund individual programs administered through the federal government. Because the budget was balanced by cuts exclusively and not through revenue, the slices are thin. Making matter worse, unless Congress acts, the slices will shrink even more because of a process called sequestration.

Sequestration was offered as a stick during 2011 budget negotiations. In 2011, negotiators were given a choice: They could decide where to enact entitlement cuts and raise revenue or accept additional cuts that shrink the annual appropriations budget. The group of lawmakers, dubbed the Super Committee, failed to compromise. That result triggered the draconian policy to shackle spending even more.  

Since then, Congress and the Obama administration enacted moderate and temporary measures that eased the impact of the cuts.  Lawmakers must enact measures soon that would again ease cuts that affect anti-hunger programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The domestic nutrition program, which is already stretched to meet unprecedented need, provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.

“Sequestration is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is a decision that can be changed, if,” Kegan stressed, “Congress makes it a priority. But they have to hear from their constituents.”

There are several programs under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committee that are critical in our efforts to end hunger, but would be subject to a sequestration squeeze. The WIC program supports nutrition for children from low-income families so they grow healthy but would lose vital funding if the automatic cuts are not removed. The dollars that fund food aid and increase our ability to buy food closer to disasters like Nepal would be in jeopardy if sequestration goes into effect.  And the poverty-assistance programs like low-income housing assistance and Head Start would also be at risk.

Bread members are urged to tell their members of Congress to enact measures that will remove sequestration from the budget and develop a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

Capitol 2
Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

Labor Day: More Than a Three-Day Weekend

Ofelio
Ofelio, owner of a tamale business in Washington, D.C., is featured in the 2014 Hunger Report. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

Barbeques, the end of summer, and a three-day weekend are what Labor Day means for most Americans. For me, the welcome work break was a chance to catch up on neglected household chores. Celebrating the contributions of workers to the strength of our nation or thinking about today’s labor market never entered my mind.

That is, until last night.

My neighbor stopped by and mentioned another neighbor who has been out of work for more than a year and still hasn’t found employment. “She is at her wit’s end,” says my friend with exasperation. “She has a college education, is smart and hardworking, and still gets no offers.”

My unemployed neighbor is not alone. There are 3.2 million long-term unemployed, people out of work for more than 27 weeks. Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) in December, cutting off critical assistance to more than a million job seekers. Never before in the history of EUC has a Congress failed to extend the emergency aid when unemployment is so high.

My neighbor’s misfortune affects all of us. Lost productivity to the labor market decreases pressures on wages, which is why many Americans have not seen raises in the last few years. High unemployment means lost productivity and lost tax revenue, causing additional spending by the federal government to fill in the gaps.

There are signs that things are getting better. However, we are not out of the woods yet. The jobless rate, which peaked at 10 percent in 2009, has still not reached pre-2008 levels. Today the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, although some economists call the number deceptively low. Full employment is a job rate below 5 percent and indicates that anyone who wants to work can find a job.

Infographic_FullEmploymentThe federal government has a role to play in strengthening the labor market and getting the long-term unemployed back to work. The best solution to ending hunger is a job that pays. The number of low-income households could be cut by more than half if a full-time job were available for everyone who wanted one.  

The 2014 Hunger Report proposes bold steps to end hunger in the United States by 2030. Returning the economy closer to the full employment level of 2000, it would be possible for President Obama and Congress to reduce hunger in America by 25 percent by 2017.

A first step to full employment includes policies that stimulate the economy as part of a budget strategy instead of the job-killing cuts, such as the automatic spending caps called sequestration. Congress should also raise the minimum wage. If wages had kept up with productivity growth over the years, the minimum wage today would be $18.67.

Perhaps it is time that Labor Day becomes more than a three-day weekend. Labor Day should be a time of reflection and action—a time to ask how we can get people in America, including my neighbor, back to work and into jobs that pay a living wage.

Robin Stephenson is national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

WIC: Strengthening Families for 40 years!


To learn more about WIC , and to watch more informative videos, visit the WIC at 40 website.

Parenthood is wonderful and rewarding, but raising thriving, healthy kids is a big job. Since 1974, WIC has been vital in helping parents give their children a healthy start—this year marks the program's 40th year of strengthening families.

When Chicago resident and WIC advocate Amanda Bornfree lost her health insurance shortly after learning that she was expecting her first child, WIC was a lifeline for her and her family. Her story about how WIC helped her included in the new Circle of Protection "Facts and Faces" project. She says that the program fed her determination to succeed: 

When I looked around the WIC clinic, I saw that I was among a community of women that cared for each other. Different generations, complexions, languages, and experiences—all of us present to keep ourselves and our families healthy. We all believed in that, whether we were there to help or to receive help. We all believed that everyone has the right to live a healthy life, and that a healthy life begins during the period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday—the crucial 1,000 days.

WIC, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helped nearly 9 million moms and kids (under age 5) get the nutrition they needed last year. But WIC does more than just provide food vouchers for low-income mothers and their children—the program also provides information on healthy eating, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care. Families with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($40,409 for a family of four in 2010) can participate.

Bread for the World has campaigned to fully fund and support WIC because we know WIC is a critical tool in the mission to end hunger. Sequestration, the automatic cuts enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, will continue to erode the effectiveness of the program. The recently-passed 2014 appropriations bill mitigates some of those cuts, and includes $6.7 billion for WIC, which will cover current and projected needs for low-income mothers and children. Bread for the World will monitor future spending bills, and continue to advocate for WIC to receive adequate funding—while pushing Congress to replace sequestration with a balanced approach.

The program's 40th anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate the dedication of WIC staff, the health of thriving WIC children and their families, and also the efforts of faithful advocates who continue to urge Congress to fully fund this investment in the future of our nation.

 

November’s Conference Call and Webinar: "Time is Running Out"


Watch this informative video on sequestration, "Stop the Cuts," created by NDD United, a Bread for the World partner organization.

"Enough is enough," said Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World senior policy analyst, during November's grassroots national conference call and webinar.

Sequestration – the automatic cuts enacted by default because Congress was unable to negotiate a budget last year – is harming Americans and increasing the numbers of families that experience hunger. Recent cuts to SNAP (food stamps), the program that helps 49 million struggling Americans put food on the table, will be felt just days before a national holiday that celebrates abundance. And immigration reform, which could boost the economy and decrease hunger for more than 11 million undocumented workers, languishes in a "new normal" of delays and partisanship bickering.

Kegan's frustration with Congress makes sense – it's likely a feeling many of us share. It is frustrating for Christians to watch this Congress act to reverse the automatic cuts that inconvenienced air travelers, while our seniors who depend on Wheels on Meals, and mothers who participate in the WIC nutrition program, continue to suffer. It sends a message that reducing wait times to board airplanes trumps the alleviation of hunger and poverty.

But the efforts of compassionate advocates have helped keep many cuts at bay. The next couple of weeks will require a vocal outpouring of protest from anti-hunger advocates. We must tell Congress that we have had enough.

"Time is running out," Kegan told participants on the call. Congress must pass a 2014 budget and finalize the farm bill before the end of the year, or we face the possibility of another government shutdown. The budget conference must provide a compromise by Dec. 13, which means they have fewer than 10 legislative days to reach an agreement. Kegan worries legislators will be in such a hurry that they may not reach a compromise that protects SNAP, reforms food aid, and replaces sequestration with a balance of revenue and smart cuts.

Kegan highlighted the report "Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure," which tells the stories of people who have been affected by these cuts. We forget that federal investments maintain the health and wellbeing of our communities. Sequestration – now lauded by some in Congress as efficient deficit reduction – has had profound costs for individuals, communities, and our nation, creating a drag on the economy and hampering job growth.

An increase in jobs is the economic boost this country needs – an idea that is central to the 2014 Hunger Report, which will be released Monday. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship will also help the economy and take a bite out of hunger. Many organizations, including Bread for the World, are participating in Fast for Families, a movement to pressure the House to act on immigration reform.

Every month, we hold a conference call and webinar to update our members.  The next call will be Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. EST.  Slides from this week’s call can be seen below.

Negotiations in Congress Will Have Long-Term Effects

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliAs we move toward the end of the year, members of Congress have many important decisions before them. Legislators will be dealing with the farm bill, immigration reform, sequestration and ongoing gridlock over the budget. The choices our legislators make now will affect people struggling with hunger for years to come.

Budget and Sequestration

On Oct. 16,Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default. The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The deal also created a conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic cuts of sequestration. The committee, which holds its next hearings on Nov. 13, has until Dec. 13 to emerge with a deal.  

These budget talks could play out in a couple of ways. The committee could emerge with a big, multi-trillion dollar, decade-long budget deal and succeed where all previous attempts have failed. However, members of Congress have said they don’t expect a big deal to emerge.

Alternatively, the committee could come up with a smaller deal that resolves the overall funding level for FY 2014 and replaces some or all of the sequester for one, or even two, years. If this happens, there are two issues to watch: the overall funding level and the makeup of any package that replaces sequestration. The size of the budget they agree on will determine the amount of funding available for all anti-hunger discretionary programs. If the committee agrees on a plan to replace sequestration, we will be focused on whether it includes revenues and protects important anti-poverty programs.

Finally, the committee could emerge with no deal. At that point, Congress will have until Jan. 15 to prevent another shutdown and potentially address sequestration.

We must continue to urge members of Congress to pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty, and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.

Farm Bill and Food Aid

Members of the House and Senate have begun negotiating a farm bill to renew our nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies.

Last month, the congressional conference committee on the farm bill met for the first time to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, while the House’s nutrition-only version cuts $39 billion. Any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Still, SNAP isn’t the only point of contention.

The farm bill conferees will also negotiate agricultural provisions, including food aid reform. The Senate passed provisions in its farm bill for more effective and efficient food aid policy that would allow U.S. food aid to reach more hungry people with better, more nutritious food. While an amendment to include similar provisions in the House version failed to pass, a bipartisan letter signed by 53 members of the House was recently sent to farm bill conferees supporting Senate-passed provisions in the bill.

In the coming months, we will ask our members with senators and representatives who sit on the conference committee to ask them to ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final farm bill.

Immigration Reform

Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

 Bread for the World will continue to ask members of Congress to come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help people suffering from hunger.

Act Now: 80 Million Meals Eliminated Since Last Friday

A+ABy Eric Mitchell

Only the current Congress would allow cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, taking food away from parents struggling in this economy to put food on the table for their kids. Last Friday — on the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast—all families receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) saw their benefits cut. The average family of four lost up to $36 a month.

This $11 billion cut over four years equals nearly 10 million meals each day. That's 80 million meals eliminated since the SNAP cut went into effect last Friday! This is as if nearly all of the residents of the states of California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado did not eat for a day. And some in Congress are pushing for far more extreme cuts to SNAP.

Email your members of Congress now and tell them this is unacceptable!

As we move toward Thanksgiving and Christmas and prepare to gather with friends and family around big meals and parties with lots of food, we know you will be making many trips to the grocery store. We encourage you to use your trips to the store as an occasion to give thanks to God for our bounty and as a reminder to take action on behalf of those who have experienced SNAP cuts. We invite you to say this prayer every time you visit the grocery store this season: God, empower us and our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

In the coming weeks, as the number of eliminated meals from SNAP cuts grows, we will call upon you to continue saying this prayer as you buy food and share this message with your members of Congress.

Right now, Congress is debating whether to allow cuts to nutrition assistance for low-income women and children to continue under sequestration. Already, struggling seniors have had to go without 4 million meals because of cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, and if sequestration continues, another 4 million meals could be cut.

We can make a difference this fall, but there’s not much time. Congress has just a few weeks to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. And these cuts threaten so much more—funding for international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start for low-income children.

Tell your members of Congress that all should share in the bounty and they must not cut programs that help struggling families.

Thank you for your continued prayers and action during this critical time.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, OR, home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system (Brad Horn).

 

Prioritizing Hope in the Farm Bill and Budget Negotiations

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

The farm bill and 2014 budget conference committees continue to meet, and we continue to ask Bread for the World advocates to keep calling and writing their members of Congress. At stake in these negotiations is more than making columns of numbers balance; at stake is the funding for nutrition programs that allow Alli Morris of Bend, Oregon, the opportunity to move on and move up.

The story of Alli and her infant son Andre, told in the video above, shows that nutrition programs are a hand up. The Bend community takes advantage of federal programs to care for those who experience need in their midst. SNAP (formerly food stamps) is the life preserver Alli needs as she makes her way to solid ground. WIC provides the nutrition baby Andre needs to fight a pituitary disease he was born with.

The decisions made by Congress in the next two months must prioritize nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC that value both Alli and Andre's health and future. Some proposals, if enacted, would mean both programs might not be there for another family and community that need them. The automatic cuts called sequestration are chipping away at WIC funding. SNAP, a program that so many Americans have seen as a blessing during the recession and slow recovery, is at risk of being slashed by nearly $40 billion.

Alli and Andre's story reminds us that even if life throws us a few curve balls, there is always hope. Most of us have experienced hardship and can probably recall what it took to overcome difficulty, but not everyone has the same access to a helping hand. Alli insists that she can make a better life for herself and Andre. Her hard work is the essence of the American dream. This family has a chance because there is a community with the tools they need to provide an opportunity for Alli's commitment to take responsibility for her family's future.

It may be easy for members of Congress, sitting at a conference table in Washington, D.C., with reams of paper in front of them, to focus on the columns of dollar figures without seeing that a family's hope is a line item they may cut. It's might be easy for Congress to forget that programs like WIC and SNAP help communities thrive as we care for one another. But it won't be easy if the people the members of Congress represent tell them to prioritize hope. Perhaps you have a story to remind them that hardship can be overcome with the right tools and opportunities. SNAP and WIC are not just programs of hope, but ladders to move lives on and up. 

Congressional Budget Negotiations Begin

Photo 06 cap bldg joe policy focus
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Traci Carlson

Last week, the congressional budget conference committee met to kick off negotiations.  The initial meeting of the committee was dominated by opening statements from some of the 29 members, rather than the serious talks that will occur over the next few weeks.

During the Oct. 30 hearing, the two committee chairs, Rep.  Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), set a collegial tone for negotiations, expressing interest in finding common ground. Although senators outnumber representatives nearly three to one, that will not give them an advantage during the votes.  

Congressional leaders have indicated they don’t expect the conference to emerge with a big, trillion-dollar, deficit-reduction deal. However, Bread for the World is hopeful that legislators will reach a smaller compromise that addresses sequestration for a year, or possibly two, without balancing the budget on the backs of struggling families.

Many members of the committee highlighted issues that are important to the 46 million Americans living in poverty. Members from both parties touched on continued high unemployment and long-term unemployment and the need for quality jobs that allow people to  lift themselves out of poverty, improving the economy in the process. Members also mentioned the need for a responsible budget with additional revenues, and the necessity of ending the sequester.

Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) explicitly called for a “circle of protection” during his opening statement, promising to work toward a budget that prioritizes “the most vulnerable in our country and that honors our promises to our seniors, to our veterans, and to those about to retire, to protect them from harmful cuts.” Bread for the World appreciates his strong support and leadership in demanding that our nation’s budget decisions address hunger and poverty. Please support members of the conference who, like Sen. Coons, stand up for struggling families—call their offices and thank them.  

Overall, this initial meeting signaled a positive start. The negotiators expressed eagerness to work together, prevent additional government shutdowns, and pass a budget through the end of fiscal year 2014. The next public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13.

As negotiations continue, there are four major issues Bread will be following. We will be watching to ensure that Congress:  

(1)Agrees on a budget that adequately funds programs serving struggling families in the U.S. and around the world,

(2) Replaces sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and responsible spending cuts,

(3) Protects vital anti-hunger programs, such as SNAP, in any plan to replace sequestration, and

(4) Avoids protecting defense spending at the expense of non-defense programs.

Most of the negotiating and deal-making will occur over the next four weeks. It is imperative that your members of Congress hear from you, especially if they sit on the budget conference committee.  Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to: replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and protects critical anti-hunger programs such as food stamps (SNAP).

Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.

Meet the Budget Conference Committee

Patty Murray
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate budget committee, speaks about the importance of telling the stories behind the statistics during Bread for the World’s 2012 Lobby Day reception while President David Beckmann listens. (Rick Reinhard)

Between now and Dec. 13, the members of Congress listed below will be spending a good deal of time together as they attempt to come up with a bipartisan budget compromise. Their choices and proposals will have an impact on hunger in the years to come.

Last week, Congress reached an eleventh-hour agreement to pass a continuing resolution and raise the country's debt ceiling. The deal averted an economic catastrophe — for now.  The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014 — just a temporary fix for the same problem and a new deadline for solving it.

While not written into the legislation, the deal also created a budget conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic spending cuts of sequestration. The committee must report back to Congress with a budget framework by Dec. 13. This would give the House and Senate Appropriations Committees one month to finalize a  fiscal year 2014 budget. 

The members of the committee have no easy task ahead of them as they try to negotiate the House and Senate budgets, which have a $91 billion difference. The overall size of the pie will determine the amount of funding available for anti-hunger discretionary programs, which are stepping-stones to a hunger-free future. Sequestration, unless replaced, will continue to chip away at funding for programs such as food aid, WIC, Head Start, and Meals on Wheels. Defunding programs that address the root causes of  hunger  is not a solution.

These leaders also have an opportunity to end the series of unnecessary crises, which puts our country's fragile economy at risk and makes struggling families uneasy and uncertain about the future. Congress must pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty. Moreover, Congress must replace sequestration with a balanced plan that has revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.

So, starting now and until Dec. 13, faithful advocates whose members of Congress sit on the conference committee need to support those leaders and urge them to do the right thing. Make phone calls and email them. Public dialogue can create public pressure, and raising your voice is critical to avoiding cuts that will take food off the tables of families who most need it. Write letters to the editor of your local paper supporting smart budget decisions that decrease hunger. Send your members of Congress public messages of encouragement and support on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Finally, be sure they know how hunger and uncertainty are affecting Main Street at home – tell the story.

Here is a sample tweet and Facebook post you can borrow, or you can craft one of your own.

Tweet: We need a moral budget to #EndHungerNow @RepPaulRyan. Replace #sequestration with revenue & smart spending cuts. #BreadActs

Facebook status update:  I’m urging Representative @Paul Ryan to use his position on the budget conference community to #EndHungerNow. Craft a moral budget that replaces sequestration with revenue and smart spending cuts.

The House Budget Conferees

State/District

Representative

Twitter

Phone

Wisconsin -01

Paul Ryan

@RepPaulRyan

(202) 225-3031

Oklahoma – 04

Tom Cole

@tomcoleok04

(202) 225-6165

Georgia – 06

Tom Price

@RepTomPrice

(202) 225-4501

Tennessee – 06

Diane Black

@RepDianeBlack

(202) 225-4231

South Carolina – 06

James Clyburn

@Clyburn

(202) 225-3315

Maryland -08

Chris Van Hollen

@ChrisVanHollen

(202) 225-5341

New York – 17

Nita Lowey

@NitaLowey

(202) 225-6506

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page.  To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

The Senate Budget Conferees

State

Senator

Twitter

Phone

Washington

Patty Murray

@PattyMurray

(202) 224-2621

Oregon

Ron Wyden

@RonWyden

(202) 224-5244

Florida

Bill Nelson

@SenBillNelson

(202) 224-5274

Michigan

Debbie Stabenow

@StabenowPress

(202) 224-4822

Vermont

Bernie Sanders

@SenSanders

(202) 224-5141

Rhode Island

Sheldon Whitehouse

@SenWhitehouse

(202) 224-2921

Virginia

Mark Warner

@MarkWarner

(202) 224-2023

Oregon

Jeff Merkley

@SenJeffMerkley

(202) 224-3753

Connecticut

Christopher Coons

@SenCoonsOffice

(202) 224-5042

Wisconsin

Tammy Baldwin

@SenatorBaldwin

(202) 224-5653

Virginia

Tim Kaine

@SenKaineOffice

(202) 224-4024

Maine

Angus King

@SenAngusKing

(202) 224-5344

Alabama

Jeff Sessions

@SenatorSessions

(202) 224-4124

Iowa

Chuck Grassley

@ChuckGrassley

(202) 224-3744

Wyoming

Mike Enzi

@SenatorEnzi

(202) 224-3424

Idaho

Mike Crapo

@MikeCrapo

(202) 224-6142

South Carolina

Lindsey Graham

@GrahamBlog

(202) 224-5972

Ohio

Rob Portman

@robportman

(202) 224-3353

Pennsylvania

Pat Toomey

@SenToomey

(202) 224-4254

Wisconsin

Ron Johnson

@SenRonJohnson

(202) 224-5323

New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte

@KellyAyotte

202-224-3324

Mississippi

Roger Wicker

@SenatorWicker

(202) 224-6253

*To tag a member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like his or her page. To find the member's page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

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