want to commend Congress for stepping away from its chronic
dysfunction in order to pass a bipartisan budget deal last
week. The agreement was a small, but positive step in
addressing the needs of low-income individuals and families,
including our Ohio brothers and sisters.
It was the right thing to do.
Prior to the deal,
Congress was looking at cutting as many as 1,500 existing
housing vouchers in Ohio alone, as a means to reduce the
deficit. In addition, compared to President Obama’s budget,
Congress’s original budget plan would have meant that nearly
97,000 fewer workers in Ohio would have access to job
training and employment services; nearly 32,000 fewer
children in Ohio would have access to full day, full year
Head Start; and our state would have lost as much as $36.8
million in federal funding for K-12 education in low-income
Of more than 150 existing
human needs programs affecting low-income people, only 14
programs had more funding than in 2010, all the rest were
cut. In addition, “about one-third of the programs (50) were
cut by 15 percent or more. Thirty-nine programs were slashed
by at least one-third,” according to the Coalition on Human
Without last week’s
decisive action, the previous restrictive spending caps and
harmful sequester cuts would have continued to hurt
impactful programs from the Departments of Labor, Education,
and Health and Human Services that lift families out of
poverty and provide help to our neighbors who need it most.
The good news is that, the
budget deal passed last week stops the hemorrhaging and
eliminates the majority of these cuts, sparing many programs
that serve low-income Ohioans from suffering further. The
deal also contains positive news for those with disabilities
who receive Social Security Disability Insurance and many
others who receive Medicare Part B, as it includes
much-needed fixes for both of these programs.
However, this current
budget deal is only a FIRST and temporary step.
Members of Congress must
now go back to the drawing board and determine how the new
budget spending caps will be divided up amongst federal
agencies and programs. How much money will go to housing
vouchers, education, mental health services, and other
critical programs? Our community and friends must make sure
the additional funds go to the programs that help people the
most. We must also let Congress know that we will not allow
partisan fighting to stop them from passing a spending bill
that represents the needs of the poor before the current
funding runs out on Dec. 11.
Further, while the budget
deal provides relief from most of the cuts that would
otherwise have taken effect, it doesn’t include any
additional investments to help decrease poverty, which
remains too high, both in Ohio, and throughout our nation.
Nearly 16 percent of
Ohioans live in poverty, and nearly 23 percent of Ohio’s
children are poor, roughly the same levels in 2014 as they
were in 2013.
communities of color disproportionately. Almost 35 percent
of African Americans and 28 percent of Latinos in our state
are poor. The statistics are worse still for children of
color – nearly one in two African-American children and more
than one in three Latino children in Ohio live in poverty.
If we are real when we say
that we want to help more Ohioans climb the ladder out of
poverty, then much more must be done. Even with stopping the
cuts this year, spending on programs that help low-income
communities is down historically, and many of these programs
have suffered from years of cuts, as alluded to earlier.
More investments are needed.
Also, the budget deal
failed to address the fact that corporations and the wealthy
can afford to pay their fair share to ensure a shared
prosperity – one that lifts up all. While Congress took a
good first step towards helping the economic, social, and
politically “least of these” when they passed the budget
legislation last week, they must continue this work over the
next few months. And, we must continue to lift our voices to
our members of Congress and other elected officials to make
sure they do.
For, to reside in or
govern the richest economy in the world, to have so many
poor and not address the issue of poverty – is a scandal.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at