One thing that recent city, state and federal budget proposals have in common is that they cut crucial services to the most vulnerable New Yorkers. These cuts are being made at a time when working-class families most need support services to help access health care, new job training and placement services, or summer jobs for young people. If Congress accepts President Obama’s proposed budget, New Yorkers will be hit hard.
Rafaela, for example, is a New Yorker who suffered from diabetes for many years without getting proper care. And now, in their zeal to cut government spending, Washington politicians are proposing to eliminate the program that allowed Rafaela to access regular checkups and affordable prescription drugs.
Between now and the time that you pick up tomorrow’s edition of this newspaper, the United States will spend more than $350 million fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. But instead of bringing our troops home one day earlier, President Obama has proposed a cut of $350 million from the Community Service Block Grants that fund the social service programs that provide crucial support to families throughout New York. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand need to stand up for our community and tell the President to get his priorities straight.
Cutting the Community Services grants won’t really help our budget situation. The federal deficit this year is $1.6 trillion, and cutting these programs would only save $350 million. Let’s put it another way: If the federal deficit was $1,000, eliminating these crucial services would only save us 22 cents.
Worse, these cuts will cost taxpayers much more money in the future. Rafaela is the perfect example. She can’t afford health insurance, so she came to Make the Road New York, a community organization where I work, for help. Using staff paid for by Community Services grants, we were able to connect her to high-quality, affordable care. Not only is Rafaela healthier because of this program, but she is also far less likely to end up in the emergency room, which saves taxpayers lots of money.
And here’s the best part – every week Rafaela attends a meeting for LUCES, the women’s health promoter group at Make the Road New York, where she is trained to teach other women in the community about health care access, family nutrition, healthy cooking and exercise. First Lady Michelle Obama has launched a national campaign on precisely these issues and would surely love to hear about the great work that LUCES is doing. But guess what? President Obama’s budget proposal would force the program to shut down.
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