FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 30, 2023 Contact: Jessica Felix Romero | email@example.com
Sojourners’ Statement on Debt Ceiling Agreement
Washington, D.C- The debt ceiling framework announced this weekend avoids defaulting on our nation’s financial commitments, which would have caused an unprecedented economic recession with millions of jobs lost, as well as disrupting critical payments like Social Security and Medicare.
While this deal is a significant improvement over the extreme cuts initially voted on by House Republicans, there remain a number of problematic pieces of the proposed deal that will cause harm to those who are experiencing extreme poverty and hardship, particularly aging and older adults. In fact, this agreement protects defense spending from cuts while attacking everything from medical research, child care, education, and job training, to housing, environmental protection, and public health—which all share the same pot of money and are often forced to compete for resources and funding in ways our defense industry does not.
Much of the focus of the debate revolved around work- reporting requirements. These failed requirements never should have been part of the debt ceiling discussion. These policies are often steeped in racism and unfounded stereotypes about people with low incomes. They ignore the reality that most people who can work do work and that many people receiving assistance are either working, between jobs, or have reasons like health or caregiving that prevent them from working, at least temporarily.
In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, when factoring in the cost of implementing new requirements on programs like SNAP, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), it wasn’t clear whether new requirements would save the U.S. much money — and could wind up costing the U.S. more money than it saved to enforce these unnecessary requirements. That same report also stated: “By removing families from TANF before they found work—and by deterring families from entering the program—work requirements have probably played a role in increasing the number of families in deep poverty.” Taking about $8 per person per day of food assistance away from older adults was never about reducing deficits — the savings are tiny in the context of the federal budget and the U.S. can easily afford to ensure that people can afford food.
Those newly at risk of losing food assistance have very low incomes, typically well below the poverty line, and will be pushed even deeper into poverty when they lose SNAP. This proposal will also increase hunger and poverty among thousands of older adults aged 50 to 54 by putting them at risk of losing food assistance. A large share of those adults are already in poor health—losing basic assistance because they aren’t able to meet the work reporting requirement will only punish them for their circumstances, not help uplift them. The agreement does include some improvements to the existing failed SNAP work-reporting requirements . While these new exemptions are positive, improvements for some don’t justify expanding to others a failed policy that will increase and deepen poverty.
Even as House Republicans insisted on harmful work requirements for low-income people, they prioritized making it easier for wealthy people to continue to accumulate money without paying their fair share. While full details remain unclear, it appears that the agreement calls for a substantial rescission in the IRS funding—$10 billion in 2024 and up to that amount in 2025—that was provided in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). While smaller than the cut in the House-passed bill, this could be as much as one-quarter of the funding provided under the IRA. The focus on protecting wealthy tax cheaters is a disservice to honest taxpayers, many who make far less money and pay far more in taxes.
“The moral test of any budget and policy change is whether it ends up helping or hurting the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities and nation. While this debt deal became necessary to avert economic disaster, the more stringent work requirements and cuts to vital social programs mean that we will be failing to meet this test. As we look ahead to the budget and appropriations process it is imperative that Congress supports the war against poverty, not start a war on people living in poverty disguised as an attempt to reduce our growing deficit,” said Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President of Sojourners.