Voices for Human Needs: A quick look at 2023 in review 


December 28, 2023

A special note to our readers: 

In 2023, we avoided a number of disasters on the human needs front. There was no government shutdown. There was no default on the national debt. In most instances, we avoided debilitating cuts in government funding to the programs that so many people depend on. Right-wingers in Congress threatened massive cuts and default, but their efforts were turned back, for this year, at least. 

We dodged some disasters, but we have also seen serious losses as Congress allowed pandemic funding to expire. Millions have lost access to Medicaid. Millions have seen their SNAP benefits cut. Child care remains in crisis – particularly with the expiration of pandemic federal aid in September. 

There has been progress, mainly in Biden Administration rule-making and implementation. The Biden Administration has started to work on prescription drug price reductions. It has proposed rules to prevent consumers from being fleeced by “junk fees” that jack up rents, banking, air travel, and other consumer items. Implementing the infrastructure legislation enacted two years ago, the Administration has started 40,000 projects, including lead removal and other aid in low-income communities; it has proposed rules to do more. It has implemented the Affordable Connectivity Program, saving 21 million households $30/month in internet costs.

Nonetheless, as we head into 2024, we know there is much unfinished business. January and February will be jam-packed with points of urgent need for us all to take action, as the threats of government shutdowns and deep cuts to the programs we care about remain.

Below you will see sample blog posts from 2023 – one for every month of the year. We at Voices for Human Needs believe these blog posts best represent our work on a number of issues, ranging from immigration to poverty to affirmative action to Medicaid to the Child Tax Credit.  

If you are a longtime Voices reader, thanks!. If you are brand new, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly blog summary (it’s free) so that you can follow along with CHN in 2024. 

Happy New Year, and wish us all luck cleaning up the mess left from 2023. 

For pregnant workers and new moms, FY 2023 spending bill was a welcome outcome
January 5, 2023
Human needs advocates have yet to unpack every last detail included in the recently approved fiscal year 2023 appropriations package, which Congress passed shortly before recessing for the December holidays. The legislation, which when introduced was 4,155 pages in length, includes several hard-fought measures for pregnant workers and new moms that please labor and health care advocates. READ MORE » 

Investments and Justice: A State of the Union in which “No One is Left Behind”
February 8, 2023
President Biden gets it. ‘Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible,’ he told us during his State of the Union address. ‘That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind.’ Despite reflexive opposition, the President has secured legislation and crafted executive actions leading to 12 million new jobs and a 3.4 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 54 years.  Unemployment is down for almost every category of worker over the past year. While unemployment remains stubbornly higher for Black and Hispanic workers, their unemployment rates are at near-record or record lows. READ MORE » 

Advocates react to President Biden’s proposed asylum ban: “Our families deserve dignity and respect”
March 22, 2023
At a recent rally near the base of the Washington Monument, immigrant advocates gathered to demand that the Biden Administration back off its plans to institute an asylum ban for many applicants as well as a possible return to the practice of family detention, frequently used during the Trump era. Carrying signs that read “No Asylum Ban, No Family Detention” and “Biden: Detainer in Chief,” and flanked by teddy bears held in steel cages, advocates noted that Biden campaigned on a platform of expanding asylum opportunities and ending family detention. READ MORE » 

War on the poor: Advocates express fury over Congressional debt ceiling, spending cuts proposal
April 26, 2023
Human needs advocates, including people of faith, rallied this week against a House measure that would severely cut spending for critical domestic programs in exchange for raising the nation’s debt ceiling.  The bill passed narrowly (217-215), but it is strongly opposed in the Senate and by President Biden. Speaking at times fervently, speakers accused the bill’s supporters of crass political opportunism and turning their backs on the millions of Americans who need help with nutrition assistance, health care, housing, early childhood education and child care, and so many other key programs that would face historically deep cuts if conservatives in Congress have their way. READ MORE »

The urgent need to invest, not cut: Cuts in two-thirds of human needs programs must be reversed, not worsened
May 10, 2023
Human needs programs have lost ground for more than a decade, and the high inflation rates of the past two years have continued this harm. In the 178 programs tracked annually by the Coalition on Human Needs, 123 (more than two-thirds, or 69 percent) saw cuts from FY 2010 through FY 2023, adjusted for inflation. The programs CHN tracks are of special importance to people with low incomes. They serve vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities and immigrants. Services listed here reach every age group, from babies to the aging; they are of disproportionate importance to communities of color. They protect women and LGBTQ people from harm. But they don’t serve all those who need help, because funding does not stretch far enough. READ MORE » 

CHN member groups and allies react: A “rogue” court denies the reality of racial inequality – and life – in America
June 30, 2023
CHN member groups and allies reacted with anger and angst over Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the use of affirmative action in college admissions – as well as with fear that the country’s institutions of higher learning will become “re-segregated.” But they also expressed a spirit of determination – a collective will that the six justices who struck down affirmative action will not have the final say when it comes to fighting racial discrimination in our country. READ MORE » 

What decades of social work taught me about poverty
July 19, 2023
If my decades of work as a social worker taught me one great lesson, it’s this. Poverty is an entrenched system of political choices by self-serving lawmakers, not a personal failing of ordinary people. Poverty is not, and never has been, a crime. I’ve worked with many economically struggling people. I grew up in meager circumstances myself and well remember the stigma and shame of having to do without. And this I can tell you: Not one person I’ve ever met wants to be poor, sick, disabled, struggling, or on the receiving end of public assistance programs. These programs are vital but often inadequate and difficult to access. READ MORE » 

The Inflation Reduction Act turns one year old
August 17, 2023
From the White House to the West Coast, advocates on Wednesday celebrated the one-year anniversary of passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The (literally) groundbreaking legislation made historic investments in clean energy, lowered health care costs for millions of Americans, and advanced tax fairness by raising taxes on wealthy corporations while giving the IRS the resources it needs to pursue tax cheats. READ MORE » 

681 groups tell Congress: Responsibly fund needed services and reject the chaos of a government shutdown
September 12, 2023
The Coalition on Human Needs and 681 local, state, and national groups delivered a message to Congress Tuesday: do your duty and keep government running. The groups delivered a letter to every member of the House and Senate urging passage of a clean, bipartisan continuing resolution (CR), including “emergency funding that supports current services and addresses urgent needs and is free of poison pill policy riders that are harmful and irrelevant to the functions of government.” READ MORE » 

People don’t like to be played for suckers, and the Biden Administration is doing something about it
October 11, 2023
People without a bank account have to spend a lot of money on check cashing services. These can run from 1 to 12 percent of the check amount, plus a flat fee.  Unsurprisingly, those without banking accounts are disproportionately low income, and can ill afford to reduce their paychecks or benefit checks by such fees. Why don’t they get bank accounts?  Because they also cost a lot. And banks have been unrelenting in socking people with one fee after another – costs that hit people with low incomes hardest. President Biden told a crowd enjoying a brilliant day in the White House Rose Garden that people don’t like to be “played for suckers,” and that his Administration was working to shut down junk fees, whether imposed by banks, hotels, ticket brokers, or rental companies. READ MORE » 

New report: 10 million Americans have lost Medicaid coverage. Many shouldn’t have.
November 7, 2023
Ten million Americans have lost Medicaid coverage as states are deciding who should continue to receive benefits, and more than 70 percent of those who lost coverage did so because of bureaucratic hurdles such as missing paperwork, not because they were shown to be ineligible.  It is likely that two-thirds of those who lost coverage became uninsured either briefly or for a longer period.  More than half of those losing benefits are likely to be people of color. These are major findings of a report released this week by a number of civil rights and human needs groups. It is by far the largest drop in Medicaid coverage in the program’s history. READ MORE » 

353 groups tell Congress: Expand the Child Tax Credit to lift children out of poverty
December 12, 2023
353 groups, including the Coalition on Human Needs, signed a letter, delivered to every member of Congress, urging members to expand the Child Tax Credit and to do so in a way that particularly helps children in families with the lowest incomes. The letter urges Congress “to prioritize expanding the Child Tax Credit (CTC), focusing on low-income children. This is particularly important to address increases in child poverty rates, and timely given efforts to pass a bipartisan tax agreement before the end of the year. READ MORE »