This week, NDD United, a group of organizations, including NCLR that are leading the charge to save public services from devastating budget cuts, released a new report documenting the impact of sequestration on a broad range of programs nationwide. “Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure,” offers first hand perspectives from community members who have felt the burden of slashed funding for everything from scientific research to special education.
As a member of the Latinos United for a Fair Economy campaign, NCLR is uniquely situated within this discussion. These budget cuts impact Latino communities across the board. Every day, more and more Latinos are losing out on critical services they rely on to survive, in education, healthcare, housing and job training. It’s more important than ever that Latinos raise their voices and let lawmakers know what’s really at stake for our communities in the next round of budget discussions.
For a clearer picture of how Congressional budget decisions are affecting our community, consider Ruby Lee, President of Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) in St. Paul, Minn. CLUES has been grappling with reduced funds for programs its community needs. Ruby shared her story with NCLR:
We have a TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] grant that was reduced and that money gets channeled through the state and the county. In the past five years we’ve exceeded the goals of the program. Now the funding is more limited and the county chooses to limit the grant to organizations with greater geographic reach. That, in a way, takes away the ability of organizations like ours that are focused on new Americans and Latinos, to provide those services. [We provide workforce solutions and immigrant integration.]
The ability to expand the targeted training programs that focus on people with very low skills. In Minnesota, we have one of the largest Ecuadorean communities in the country. We have to provide everything on the continuum of integration with language, job training, and job skills. We try to meet people we’re there at. Some of them don’t even speak Spanish. For some of them it’s not a three month or a nine week program, it’s a lot longer than anticipated. The budget cuts are reducing our ability to provide more coaching, to provide specific training that will help them not only obtain the job but retain the job.
I understand budget deficits and I understand that you can’t do all things at once. But I do understand too that our clients have to work three jobs or four jobs to make ends meet. Housing is expensive and food is expensive. Providing funding to help people move into the career ladder. Very low-income people are the ones with the least [on-the-job] benefits, with the least ability to have a door open. We need to help open doors for the very low-skilled, for the very low-income.
The next round of budget cuts is rapidly approaching unless Congress can come to an agreement on how to replace sequestration. This report puts a very real face to the consequences that sequestration has had for so many Americans. It’s time for Congress to stop ignoring the calls of our communities and pass a federal budget that invests in America’s future.