Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is an opportunity for us to express our support for important government programs as we look towards the year ahead. In the next year, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to review the laws and re allocate funding when the laws expire. One existing law in this policy area – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – is set to expire on September 2015.
By Kristen Walling
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This scripture from Luke 12:34 reminds us that the places we allocate our money reveal what is truly important to us. Our federal budget—the decisions about how we will spend our money—reflects what we choose to value. The federal budget plan crafted by Representative Paul Ryan unfortunately presents a dishearteningly bleak future for women in this country. Low-income women, women of color, and elderly women would be particularly hard-hit if Congress were to accept Ryan’s budget proposal as is.
The Ryan budget proposes balancing the budget by drastically reducing spending on programs that help low-income Americans, particularly women. Women who are heads-of-households and elderly women are especially reliant on programs for low-income people such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Pell Grants which help low-income people attend college, child care subsidies, and school lunch programs. Here are only some of the cuts the Ryan budget proposes to such programs:
- $137 billion from SNAP cuts alone: in FY 2011 women were 62% of non-elderly recipients and 66% of elderly adult recipients
- Up to $125 billion in Pell Grants: in the 2007-2008 academic year, two-thirds of Pell Grant recipients were women.
- At least $150 billion to unspecified mandatory programs serving low-income Americans, which would likely include programs such as Supplemental Security Income; a majority of SSI adult and elderly beneficiaries in 2012 were women
Slashing spending to these programs would have an especially harmful impact on women and their families. Instead, the budget must maintain programs women rely on and add initiatives that proactively work to support women living at the margin.
The Ryan budget also does not sufficiently take into account wages for low-income workers, a majority of whom are women. Although women comprise 47% of the overall workforce, they represent over 76% of workers in the ten largest low-wage jobs. These occupations include childcare workers, cashiers, home health aides, waiters and waitresses, and food preparers. Our current federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) does not provide economic security for women and their families. Unlike other budget proposals, Paul Ryan does not assume an increase in the minimum wage. While the budget itself would not necessarily raise the minimum wage, it is incredibly problematic that Representative Ryan’s fiscal policies are built on assumptions of stagnant wages for the millions of American women struggling to provide for their families. Women need a federal budget that works in conjunction with, rather than against, other legislative policies that support low-wage workers.
One of the most striking components of the Ryan proposal is that it would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been absolutely instrumental in securing access to basic health care for millions of American women. Women face particular challenges in finding affordable health insurance that covers the range of health benefits they need, and are more likely than men to struggle to pay medical bills. However, the ACA greatly expanded basic primary and preventive health care options for women, including services such as cancer screenings, pap smears, maternal health, pelvic exams, and HIV/STI screenings. Repealing the ACA would cause millions of women who have acquired coverage under the new law to lose their health insurance and access to these services. A more responsible budget would continue to ensure sufficient funding and access for quality health care programs for women.
It was likely not Paul Ryan’s plan to specifically target women. However, when a majority of the beneficiaries of many of the programs he would slash are women, it is hard to see his proposals as anything short of an attack on women. As people of faith we are called to lift up those living at the margins and struggling to make ends meet. Supporting the Ryan budget is certainly not in line with these values, and Congress must seek policies that would better support women’s economic security, health, education, and ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Kristen Walling is a Policy Advocate at the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries. You can read more by Kristen on the UCC website, http://www.ucc.org
After years of neglect and cuts to the federal budget, a growing number of low-income people face unaffordable housing costs. Federal housing programs have proven effective in enabling millions of low-income households to obtain stable, decent housing during recent years. However, during the last several years, these programs have suffered major cuts. Read more…
By Ryan Murphy
Last week, the House Budget Committee officially released its 2015 budget resolution, entitled: The Path to Prosperity. Although the document is merely symbolic due to the bipartisan budget agreement reached last month between House and Senate, it is an important indication of what could emerge from Congress in the near future. According to Congressman Paul Ryan, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and key author of the document, “this budget is our vision for how we should fix this country’s fiscal problem.” Read more…
By Rev. Brian P. Adams
Rep. Paul Ryan wants us to think that his 2014 Fiscal Year Budget is good for veterans, as it raises funding for veterans’ concerns to $145.730 billion, which is about $9 billion higher than the request from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Yet the budget is not good for veterans overall, as it decreases the funding for many government services that are intended for all people in need, and on which many veterans depend. Such programs are often criticized by judging the recipients of aid as lazy moochers. Our veterans certainly do not fall into that category. Read more…
This post is first in a series that will highlight the effects of the House Budget Committee’s budget, or “the Ryan Budget,” on the most vulnerable Americans.
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On Friday, the Center For American Progress hosted “Housing Finance Reform: What Does It Mean for Rental Housing?” with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. The event touched on many topics, including the future of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the importance of rental housing and how the recession has changed the housing market. While it got a bit technical, one topic of discussion of deep value to the Reform Movement was the National Housing Trust Fund. Read more…