Leslie Copeland-Tune is director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative in Washington, D.C.

Posts By This Author

Trump’s Budget Legislates Evil and Mistreats the Poor

by Leslie Copeland-Tune 06-27-2017

When we say the most vulnerable or the “least of these” we are not talking about numbers on a page. We are talking about the elderly — grandmothers and grandfathers, deacons, trustees, and ushers, children’s ministry workers, community leaders, and those who have worked for decades to provide for themselves and their families. We are talking about children and youth who were born with purpose and possibilities, who have their whole lives ahead of them, future pastors, and lay leaders, lawyers, teachers, journalists, and members of Congress — those who will determine the future our nation. We’re talking about those who have disabilities and those who work hard every day – sometimes two and three jobs to make ends meet and provide for their families but get paid low wages that do not cover the high cost of living in most cities and towns in our nation.

What Are Block Grants?

by Leslie Copeland-Tune 04-25-2017
And why they're a bad model for the social safety net.
Photo: sabreguy29 / Flickr

Photo: sabreguy29 / Flickr

IN MARCH, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan shared his excitement about block grants. “We are de-federalizing an entitlement, block granting it back to the states, and capping its growth rate,” Ryan said. “That’s never been done before!”

Ryan’s enthusiasm should be alarming, not exciting, for Christians. The block grant model is a dangerously ineffective way to protect people when they are economically vulnerable.

What’s a block grant and what’s it good for? A block grant is a fixed amount of unrestricted funding made by the federal government to a state. Traditionally, block grants have been used for law enforcement, school systems, and public transportation, allowing states more flexibility in administering programs as well as the ability to experiment.

Generally, block grants have not been used for entitlement programs, which include Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), and Supplemental Security Income, among other programs. Why? Because doing so cuts gaping holes into the safety net that these programs offer those who are struggling, and because “experimenting” with people when they are sick, poor, disabled, or elderly is abhorrent. Scripture is unequivocal on this: We are to honor our elders and care for the poor, widows, orphans, and strangers—the most vulnerable among us.