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Who cares about hungry families? Maybe not the Senate – but your letter carrier does

Congress is getting really good at pulling together just-after-the-last-minute political deals.

The latest deal passed the Senate unanimously last night.  (What? No filibuster?)  Apparently everybody agreed it would be a good idea to give the Federal Aviation Administration a special exemption to Sequestration.

“Just days after forced unpaid leaves for controllers began, delaying thousands of flights — 876 flights were delayed on Wednesday alone” the Senate decided that maybe Sequestration wasn’t such a good idea after all – at least not when it starts to affect the traveling public.  Read more here.

The bill is expected to pass the House today.  FAA furloughs should be a thing of the past before the Senate goes on vacation next week.

Wow. That was fast. But it’s a real shame that the Senate doesn’t care as much about hungry families as it cares about flight delays.

Take the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC), for example.  Even while Congress was debating Sequestration, “a number of state and local WIC agencies took steps to reduce their costs.  For example, some clinics laid off staff…  Some states closed or consolidated clinics… Some clinics reduced service hours…  making it harder for low-income women to apply for benefits, especially working women.”  (Read more here.)  And when the dust finally settled on this year’s budget, Congress had appropriated 7% less funding for the WIC program than it received last year.

Sequestration cut federal funding to food pantries, even though the number of people relying on food pantries is still rising.  Some pantries are hoping local benefactors will fill in the gap.  Other pantries are just closing.

Around the nation, Meals on Wheels programs are feeling the cuts.  One program in North Carolina – which has 200 people on its waiting list – is losing funding equivalent to 12,000 meals.  In Maryland, another Meals on Wheels program may be forced to cut its service from five days a week to only four.

The Sequester has hit Federal unemployment benefits, too.  About 15% of unemployed workers now receive extended unemployment benefits that are funded by the federal government.  The Sequester means those benefits will be cut by about 11% for the rest of the fiscal year.  Families’ choices about food versus housing, and which overdue bill to pay this week, are about to get a lot harder.

None of these programs are even on the radar screen, as the Senate prepares to leave town for vacation.  But flight delays?  That got solved by the Senate in record time – unanimously, to boot.

Wow.  What does that say about the priorities of our Congress?  (Read “The Republicans Make an Offer on Sequestration” here.)

Now, look at the priorities of the National Association of Letter Carriers.  Going door-to-door every day, postal carriers know the hunger problem in America all too well.

For more than two decades, the NALC has held a one-day food drive to help restock food pantries across the country.  This effort “is the country’s largest one-day food-collection effort. Last year, we picked up more than 70 million pounds of non-perishable food donations, which brought our grand total from more than two decades of collections to 1.2 billion pounds.”

2013_Stamp_Out_HungerThis year’s NALC “Stamp out Hunger” food drive will be held Saturday, May 11th (the day before Mothers Day).  Don’t forget to leave your sack of non-perishables out by your mailbox.  Want more details?  Click here.

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About Liz Iacobucci

Liz Iacobucci is the former Public Information Officer for the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, SEIU Local 1984. Over the past three decades, she has served in government at the federal, state and municipal levels; and she has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians.
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