Community Leaders Oppose Federal Cuts To Critical Services

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MIDDLESEX COUNTY – The federal government must stop the practice of extending temporary budget measures that so far have cut federal aid for critical human services by 15 percent, according to a coalition of government, religious and non-profit leaders who fear they will not be able to continue providing services to people in need if the cuts continue and a permanent budget is not adopted.

The Middlesex County Human Services Advisory Council coordinated a press conference on Wednesday to oppose the federal cuts and to urge Congress to adopt a final fiscal year 2011 budget that will solidify funding levels for critical services such as housing assistance, home energy assistance, childcare, services for the elderly and disabled, job training and college students.

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Congress, who cannot agree on a final Fiscal Year 2011 budget, has been passing Continuing Resolutions since Fiscal Year 2011 began in October. The 15 percent in cuts made through the Continuing Resolutions affect the first six months of the fiscal year. Funding for the remaining six months has not been put into place, meaning agencies do not know what funding they will receive and whether they will be able to provide needed services.

Middlesex County Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti said there is a potential for an additional reduction of 10 percent on top of the 15 percent already in place once a spending plan is developed for the last half of the Fiscal 2011 year.

“The U.S. Congress should be demonstrating better leadership by forging a concerted effort of collaboration and compromise on the 2011 budget,” said Valenti, chair of the County’s Human Services and Senior Services Committee. “We have too much to lose and little to gain by the use of Continuing Resolutions. Congress then needs to begin a dialogue on the 2012 federal budget, the entire federal budget, not just the small ‘discretionary, non-security-related’ slice of the pie.”

“We should not spend indiscriminately,” said U.S. Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District. “Wise, fact-based government action can reduce the deficit by avoiding wasteful and unnecessary spending and costly tax expenditures, while still increasing opportunity broadly, ensuring fairness, and enriching the lives of all Americans through smart investments.  I am always looking for ways to reduce our deficit, whether we can trim agricultural subsidies that overwhelmingly benefit agribusiness, end unnecessary Department of Defense weapons systems, or reduce the federal government’s reliance on contract workers.”

The HSAC is a volunteer group that includes consumers of human services, provider agency representatives and consumer advocates. Members are appointed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders, and by regulation are reflective of the county demographics.

“The Council membership is united in recommending prompt adoption of the 2011 federal budget to assure the delivery of important social services to those in need across the country and particularly in Middlesex County,” said Judy Tabert, HSAC chairperson.

The effort received the support of Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of the Diocese of Metuchen, Bishop Donald Hilliard, Jr., Senior Pastor, Cathedral International, Perth Amboy, the Rev. Lisanne Finston, Executive Director of Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick, and Middlesex County residents and provider agencies that are affected by the funding cuts.

“Many people in our state would be deeply hurt by the proposed cuts, especially the low-and middle-income families who are already adversely affected by the current economic downturn,” said Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski. “We need to continue to provide heating and energy assistance, nutrition, child care and other important programs to those in most need.”

“Strong families mean strong communities. The proposed cuts will undermine that strength and place Middlesex County communities in a downward spiral. We must work to prevent that from happening,” said Bishop Donald Hilliard, Jr. Senior Pastor, Cathedral International, Perth Amboy.

Rev. Lisanne Finston said: “I am deeply concerned about the cuts proposed for Fiscal Year 2011, especially as 11.5 percent of Middlesex County residents struggle with food insecurity…so many of us are facing hunger, rising food and fuel costs and continued unemployment.  Now is not the time to make cuts which will tear at the vital safety net for so many.”

Middlesex County Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti addresses a crowd that gathered to oppose federal cuts to critical human services during a March 30th press conference coordinated by the Human Services Advisory Council and attended by Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski, Rev. Lisanne Finston, Executive Director of Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick, and Middlesex County residents and provider agencies that are affected by the funding cuts.


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