Friday, February 25, 2011

An Advocate’s View: How Budget Cuts to Domestic Programs Hurt an Elder’s Economic Security

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Christopher Smith, a volunteer attorney at the Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services in Detroit, Michigan. Christopher works to ensure elders are enrolled in programs and services that help them build economic security. However, those programs and services are now being threatened by budget cuts proposed in the House bill passed last Saturday. One of these crucial programs is the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which provides funds for those struggling to pay their bills to heat their homes during the winter and cool their homes in the summer.

The House passed a bill on Saturday that would cut LIHEAP funding by 66% for the remainder of the fiscal year. Christopher cautioned that less funding would result in people making impossible choices on whether to eat or heat, and also lead desperate Detroit residents to try dangerous and unconventional ways to heat their homes such as starting a fire that could get out of control. In fact, he shared that this happened a couple times already in the last few weeks. “Realistically, a LIHEAP subsidy costs far less than dispatching the fire department,” he said.

As the Senate gears up next week to debate the federal budget, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) urges you to join advocates across the country in sending a letter to Congress on the importance of crucial programs and services to millions of American families and elders as they rebuild from one of the worst economic recession's of our time.

Now is the time to take action. We encourage you to send your letter today, and include your story of how cuts will affect your community. We must show Congress how much these programs and services help low and middle-income families make ends meet.

Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

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