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WASHINGTON, DC - As mandatory cuts to federal budgets are set to take effect under the sequester, devastating key domestic and international programs that fight poverty, Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of international relief and development organization Oxfam America, made the following statement:
“The fight against poverty, both here and abroad, is one of America’s proudest traditions and smartest investments. Congress must protect these small but critically important parts of our country’s budget to save lives, help people lift themselves out of poverty, spur economic growth, and make the world a better and safer place.
“Congress needs to stop putting America’s prosperity and security on the line, and find a way to continue these crucial lifesaving programs.
“While few would disagree that the federal government needs to reduce our massive deficits, pretending to achieve fiscal responsibility by cutting relatively small programs that benefit the poor is shameful and simply doesn’t work.
“Life saving foreign aid, for example, is less than one percent of the budget. No matter how you dice it, you simply can’t cover a budget gap with it.
“Cuts to these tiny programs will have serious consequences. As we mark ten years since the beginning of the conflict in Darfur, 3.4 million people are relying on aid to survive and sequestration would chop 200 million dollars out of our humanitarian assistance accounts. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, double that amount will be cut from global health funding, devastating efforts to stop HIV/AIDs and child death.
“Sequestration cuts would also dismantle much of the progress the US government has made in recent decades to improve the efficiency and impact of our assistance.
“Here at home, 600,000 poor children and mothers will lose WIC nutrition aid and 70,000 children will no longer be able to attend Head Start programs, according to the Coalition on Human Needs. Other initiatives that help the neediest Americans will also be slashed: 125,000 low-income families will lose rental vouchers; four million fewer Meals on Wheels will be served to the elderly; more than 370,000 adults and children will lose treatment for mental illness.
“The bottom line is that these across the board ‘blind’ sequester cuts will cost lives. Budget-cutting by sequester is shortsighted, irresponsible and an inhumane attack on the poor.”
Editor’s note: Oxfam America does not receive US government funds.