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CRS and U.S. Bishops: Preserve Aid to the World's Poor

November 9, 2011 by

CRS President Ken Hackett and Bishop Howard Hubbard, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to members of the U.S. Senate this week, urging them to preserve funding for poverty-focused humanitarian and development assistance in the budget appropriation for the 2012 fiscal year. A Senate vote on the appropriations bill is imminent.

Life-saving poverty-focused international assistance that fights hunger, disease and poverty makes up less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget.  However, as the Senate considers appropriations bills regarding these funding levels, amendments to drastically cut assistance to people in dire need are expected.

Here is the text of their letter:

Dear Senator:

As the Senate prepares to consider a FY 2012 appropriations bill that contains the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations, we urge you to oppose additional cuts in the form of amendments to poverty-focused humanitarian and development assistance. Such cuts will undermine integral human development, poverty reduction initiatives, and stability in the world’s poorest countries and communities. They could also weaken our long-term security, since poverty and hopelessness can lead to instability, conflict and terrorism.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have repeatedly acknowledged the difficult challenges that Congress faces to get the nation’s financial house in order: fulfilling the demands of justice and obligations to future generations; controlling future debt and deficits; and protecting the life and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable. However, our nation must be fiscally responsible in morally responsible ways.

The Senate State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations should protect critical poverty-focused development and humanitarian accounts previously identified by USCCB and CRS (see the attached table). These life-saving programs include agricultural assistance for subsistence farmers and adaptation to climate change for vulnerable communities. They supply life-saving medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS and vaccines for preventable diseases, assistance to orphans and vulnerable children and disaster assistance in places like Haiti. They also fund peacekeeping forces to protect innocent civilians in troubled areas such as Sudan and the Congo, and support to migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or persecution in nations such as Iraq. The famine in East Africa is a grim reminder of the lives that are at stake.

The FY 2011 budget cut poverty-focused programs by 8% from FY 2010, an already significant and harmful reduction. USCCB and CRS were pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee reported a bill that largely protects current funding levels for poverty-focused accounts. If further action is needed to reduce deficit spending, instead of cuts to the poor overseas, we urge you to consider balanced adjustments across the entire federal budget, including defense, revenue, agricultural subsidies, and fair and just entitlement reform. If the State and Foreign Operations budget must be reduced, then we ask you to protect critical poverty-focused development and humanitarian accounts and other parts of the budget focused on the poor. The budget is a moral document that should give priority to those who are poor and vulnerable at home and abroad.

As we have said in the past, the USCCB and CRS stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity. But we oppose an appropriations bill that places a disproportionate, deadly burden on the poorest people in the poorest places on earth. We urge the Senate to reject disproportionate, unwise, and unjust cuts to programs that give life to people living in poverty across the world.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace

Mr. Ken Hackett
President
Catholic Relief Services

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