Our guest blogger is Katie Wright, a Research Associate with the Half in Ten campaign at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Today, the House Republican bill that funds labor, health and education programs for the next fiscal year was considered by an appropriations subcommittee. Unfortunately, like the House Republican budget that it’s based on, this bill makes deep cuts to important programs and illustrates the House GOP’s upside-down priorities.
Overall, the bill slashes funding for the programs under the jurisdiction of the committee by $6.8 billion compared to fiscal year 2012. To make matters worse, the cuts and damaging legislative riders contained in the bill will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor and disadvantaged. Here are the three worst ideas in the House Labor, Health, and Education funding bill:
1) Decimating the Corporation for National and Community Service. The bill cuts nearly three quarters ($777.4 million) of the funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans each year in citizen service and has enjoyed bipartisan congressional support. This staggering cut would end successful community improvement programs like Americorps, VISTA, the Social Innovation Fund and the National Civilian Community Corps. Not only do national service programs strengthen nonprofit partners and communities around the country, they also provide an important pathway into civic life for veterans newly-returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
2) Prohibiting home health aides from getting the wages and benefits they deserve. As the baby boomer generation ages, providing quality home care has become increasingly important. But home health aides often do backbreaking work for low-wages with few benefits. A troubling legislative rider on this bill would make it harder to push for a regulation that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to these workers.
3) Making it more difficult for those in underserved communities to access healthy food. The House GOP uses this bill to take a political cheap shot at the White House by prohibiting funds from being used to implement the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. Championed by Michelle Obama, the initiative leverages the proven work of public and private nonprofits, agencies, and businesses in providing affordable, healthy food options to those in “food deserts” without easy access to a grocery store. Without access to affordable healthy foods, low-income Americans in underserved communities are forced to purchase cheap, empty calories or go hungry, which can contribute to poor health and educational outcomes in children over the long-term.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the House GOP doesn’t stop there. The bill contains ideologically-based riders which prevent funds from being used to implement the Affordable Care Act and prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood, which is used to provide services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings for underserved women. Among other problematic provisions, it would eliminate programs designed to better outcomes for students in low-performing schools, while quadrupling funding for abstinence education.
This bill would pull the rug out from under millions of families trying to make ends meet. With more than 103 million Americans scraping by on low incomes today, the House GOP should invest, not cut, in programs that expand economic opportunity and create shared prosperity for all.