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.

Bob Smietana 7-01-2013

Memphis' Congregational Health Network has become a model for how hospitals and faith communities can work together.

the Web Editors 3-08-2012

U.S. Top Destination for Christian, Buddhist Immigrants, Study Saysl; Abdo Husameddine, Syria Deputy Oil Minister, Defects; Washington’s New Antiwar Movement; The Pentagon's (Preliminary, Shaky, And Hypothetical) War Plan For Syria; Arab Spring Fails To Allay Women's Anxieties; Progressives Petition Hoyer Against Safety Net Cuts; Carbon Fast 2012: Christians Give Up Carbon For Lent

Debra Dean Murphy 2-03-2012

“The poor will always be with you,” Jesus once said, and for centuries his followers have struggled to understand what he meant.

Or maybe not.

“The poor will always be with you” — especially if you’re not poor — seems straightforward enough: Look around, people ! The poor (and their problems) are very much with us!

Viewed through this kind of realpolitik lens, this verse (and the Bible generally) pose no real interpretive challenges to our reading or our living. The world, regrettably, is simply thus. The poor, alas, will always be with us.

Rose Marie Berger 8-26-2011

More than 140 prominent Protestant leaders from 12 Latin American countries have signed an "open letter to the Christian churches of the United States," asking American Christians to stand with "the most vulnerable members of US society" who would be affected by proposed budget cuts to the social safety net.

Citing the Circle of Protection as a positive Christian witness, the signers also expressed their dismay. "We view with deep concern recent decisions in the United States that will add to the suffering of the most vulnerable members of US society," the letter read. It was signed by a broad array of Latin American religious communities, including leaders of the Latin American Council of Churches, the United Bible Society of Latin America, evangelical councils and alliances in Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay, the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches (CONELA), the Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL), Micah Network, Indigenous Association of Peruvian Amazonia, and the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica.

Timothy King 8-16-2011

The first few nights weren't so bad. It was on the fourth night, the night it rained, that it got to me. I had just spent the past week sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the Illinois state Capitol building in Springfield. Throughout the week, young people of faith, college students, as well as homeless and formerly homeless youth traveled from Chicago to Springfield. Some slept on the sidewalks at night, and others came solely to lobby their legislators. We were all there for the same reason -- because each year nearly 25,000 youth experience homelessness in the state of Illinois. Not only were there not the resources to help these youth, but most legislators and most of the general public didn't even realize the problem existed.

In the past few weeks, I've written about a lot of full-page ads. This full-page ad is different. Too often, homeless youth have been invisible. The Ali Forney Center, a service provider for LGBT homeless youth, has a full-page ad in this month's issue of Sojourners magazine. GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Association Against Defamation, connected the Ali Forney Center to Sojourners, as a part of an advertising campaign the Ali Forney Center is running. The ad highlights that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I have talked with many teens who became homeless because they were kicked out of their homes or ran away from abuse by their parents because of their sexual identity. After their homes became dangerous, they went to the streets, where many were attacked and some were trafficked or forced into prostitution.

Jim Wallis 7-20-2011

'Barack and Michelle Obama on election night' photo (c) 2008, John Althouse Cohen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Today, I, alongside other faith leaders, met with President Obama about the critical budget debate. We are grateful and hopeful leaving this meeting. Please pray for us as the conversation continues.

Since early this spring, Sojourners, with your invaluable help, has strongly advocated with the president and Congress, asking for a responsible plan to reduce our nation's deficit -- a plan that protects the poorest and most vulnerable. We have asked, "What Would Jesus Cut?" We have prayed and fasted, and now thousands of you have signed on to the Circle of Protection: a statement on why we need to protect programs for the poor.

Evan Trowbridge 4-27-2011
Piercing through the bitter, partisan bickering regarding the nation's budget, an unprecedented and diverse group of Christian leaders announced today the forming of a Circle of Protection agains
The gospel according to the movie True Grit (2010) is as follows: "You must pay for everything in this world one way or another.
Duane Shank 4-04-2011
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr. Although I never met him, I value his life and teachings more and more each year.

Hannah Lythe 4-01-2011
When I was younger, I played by the rules. Everything had to be fair. The quantity of animal crackers in my possession had to be equal, not greater or less than my brother's.
Jim Wallis 3-24-2011
The extreme budget cuts proposed to critical programs that save the lives, dignity, and future of poor and vulnerable people have crossed the line.
Elizabeth Palmberg 8-05-2010
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.
What is the Tea Party position on war?

John Gehring 2-05-2010

Former President George W. Bush receives a pro-life award this weekend from Legatus, an organization of Catholic business professionals.

Jim Wallis 9-29-2009
With an issue like health, deeply personal, but of great public concern, the faith community has a unique and important role to play -- to define and raise the moral issues beneath the policy debat
Amy Barger 9-16-2009
A bankruptcy office was not on my dream list of places to work after college. The legal realm seemed opaque and impersonal.
Nate Van Duzer 7-17-2009
Last week the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a study analyzing the effectiveness of our country's safety net programs.
Bob Greenstein 4-07-2009

I've been asked for a few words about how the recession may affect poverty in the United States, and also about policy issues related to poverty that have emerged from the economic recovery legislation and from the budget debate on Capitol Hill.

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