On May 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act. In doing so, they have taken the country further down the path set by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan - a path that jeopardizes seniors' health while the wealthiest 1 percent continue to receive tax breaks.
The act would cut 1.8 million struggling families off of food stamps; 300,000 poor children would lose free school meals; Medicaid spending would be reduced by $27 billion; and the Prevention and Public Health Fund, part of the new health care law that provides cancer screenings, immunizations, prevention research and outreach, would be eliminated. It would also eliminate the HAMP Program, which helps homeowners struggling with foreclosures and loan modifications. It repeals regulators' authority to shut down a failing large financial firm when that failure would threaten the financial stability of the United States.
Most seriously, the vote eliminates the $1.7 billion Social Services Block Grant Program, which funds Meals on Wheels for seniors unable to prepare even one nutritionally balanced meal a day; does away with adult day-care services, which help keep seniors out of institutions; and eliminates funding for adult foster care and adult protective services, which prevent abuse and exploitation of older adults.
Senate Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin has signaled his intention to mark up an FY 2013 appropriations measure in his subcommittee in early June if not sooner. The measure will cover the lion's share of domestic spending, including national services, K-12 education, HeadStart, child care, National Institutes of Health and much more.
The tight budget cuts established in last year's budget deal will make for tough going; however, if we all get together and reach out to our two senators (Harry Reid, (202) 224-3542; and Dean Heller, (202) 224-6244) and ask them to contact Harkin to express support for his mark up as it will go a long way to help seniors.
And yes, the House also voted to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service - again! This is the federal agency that has oversight and funds social service volunteer programs such as RSVP, Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion and AmeriCorps. It has more than a million dedicated volunteers, some of whom have given 25-30 years of their time to help others in need for no payment. If this passed the Senate, all these services and volunteers would evaporate. The Senate voted it down last time and we hope they will do so again.
A Wooden Nickel to everyone in the House who voted for this bill. Stay tuned.
• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.