Groups tell Congress: Don’t cut the programs that meet our needs 


June 27, 2024

More than 1,100 organizations from all across the country have signed a letter to congressional leaders, calling on Congress to provide enough funding in next year’s appropriations bills to “invest the amounts needed to meet the needs of our country and protect American competitiveness, economic strength, security, and services critical to families and individuals” and to reject “poison pill policy riders.”  So far, the House Committee on Appropriations has been producing exactly the kinds of funding bills this very large number of groups oppose. 

At issue: funding for the very wide range of domestic and international programs, also known as “non-defense discretionary” or NDD, that must be approved annually.  That includes education, public health, substance use and mental health treatment, environmental protection, housing assistance, nutrition programs for young and old alike, protections for workers, medical research, the census and other surveys, roads and public transit, public safety, re-entry programs – well, you get the picture: a vast swath of services needed in every community, for young and old alike, women and men, immigrants, people with disabilities, families, workers.  Everyone. 

Our nation faces growing needs, and even though inflation has slowed, costs are up.  So even to keep providing today’s level of services, funding increases would be necessary.  The House bills don’t do that.  That’s because House Appropriations Committee Republicans decided to ignore the previous two-year debt ceiling deal between Congress and President Biden which allowed for “side deals” and overall small increases in funding.  Spending for the current year added funds to avoid severe cuts – cuts that would have turned away mothers and young children from the WIC nutrition program or that would have reduced the number of poor families getting help paying their rent. 

The new spending proposals moving through the Appropriations Committee do not include similar increases above the spending cap.  So there are cuts – a 25 percent reduction in federal aid to K-12 schools serving children in low-income communities, a 7 percent cut in public housing funding expected to result in tens of thousands of evictions, total elimination of a youth job training program and dramatic reductions in other job training, and elimination of these key programs and many others: the Department of Education’s English Language Acquisition program, the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau, and Title X family planning services, and the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative.  This is just a small sampling. 

And while the letter, circulated by the umbrella group NDD United, of which the Coalition on Human Needs is a member, also called for no poison pill policy riders, the bills being considered now have plenty.  These are provisions that will make it impossible to enact appropriations bills.  If they can get through the full House, they will not pass in the Senate.  They include restrictions on immigrants, including an unconstitutional attempt to exclude noncitizens from the census count for purposes of apportionment, elimination of programs intended to reduce racial discrimination, ends to environmental protections, etc.  

Congress would do well to listen to the wide array of organizations signing this letter.  From groups concerned with medical research to educational institutions to health, education, nutrition, and social service providers to labor and faith organizations, these represent millions of people in every state and community.  They know we cannot sustain our economy and meet our people’s needs without these services.  We don’t know whether some or all of these bills can pass in the House in their current form.  Hopes are high that the Senate will set more realistic funding levels and reject the poison pills.  The 1,100+ groups will be watching and continuing to speak out — including members of the Coalition on Human Needs.