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Budget Resolution Would Slash Services to Jewish Poor, Elderly

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A Republican plan to balance the federal budget would deprive many elderly, poor disadvantaged Americans of the services they now receive from Jewish charities nationwide, according to a new study of the proposal’s impact.

Jewish charities will face a huge gap in funding by 2002 if spending guidelines set by the Senate and House of Representatives are implemented, according to the study, which was released at a news conference here June 15.

Officials of Jewish charities say it would be difficult, if not impossible, to fill the holes in federal funding that the federal budget cuts would leave.

“It’s going to impact our system dramatically,” said Deborah Lauter, community relations director of the Atlanta Jewish Federation.

Four of the federation’s constituent agencies were profiled in the study.

“The biggest hits are to those who need the most help: the elderly, youth, children, the disabled, families in crisis,” Lauter said of the projected cuts.

The spending proposals, which cleared their final hurdle in Congress last week, amount to government trying to “divorce” itself from its longstanding partnership with non-profit organizations, she added. “We, as non-profits are left with the child support.”

Independent Sector, a coalition of about 800 voluntary organizations, examined 108 charities nationwide in the study, which is titled, “The Impact of Federal Budget Proposals Upon the Activities of Charitable Organizations and the People They Serve, 1996 to 2002.”

The study compares the spending caps in the budget resolution approved by the House on May 18 with Congressional Budget Office spending figures to project the budget’s impact on social service programs.

The spending cuts in the Senate’s version of the bill were not as deep, but officials of Jewish charities say the House-Senate compromise hammered out last week would still have a devastating impact on social services.

“The combined resolution would have the same effect” on social services programs as the House version, said Diana Aviv, director of the Washington Action office of the Council of Jewish Federations.

“I think we’re talking about some very serious and substantial cuts” that will make it “impossible for our agencies to make up the difference,” she said.

Congress passed its seven-year budget plan June 29. The House-Senate resolution trims more than $900 billion from the Housing and Urban Development and the Health and Human Services department budgets over seven years, Aviv said.

The lion’s share of the cuts needed to fulfill the Republican plan of balancing the budget by 2002 appears to come from social services, she added.

U.S. charities would face a cumulative $254 billion shortfall during the seven- year period covered by the budget resolution. To compensate, they would need to increase their donations by 252 percent over 1994 donations, according it the Independent Sector study.

By 2002, federal funding would make up just 25 percent of charities’ total program spending, down from 32 percent in 1994, the study says.

The study details the impact of the budget cuts not only in dollars, but also in services provided.

For example, the Atlanta Jewish Community Center would serve 3,456 fewer meals in its meal program during fiscal years 1996 to 2002 and would face a cumulative funding gap of more than $80,000 by 2002, the study found.

The center’s meal program, funded by federal dollars, expects to serve 26,845 meals during fiscal year 1996, said Sandra Craine, director of its Midtown Branch.

Affiliated with the Atlanta Jewish Federation, the center provides housing, meals, skills training and recreation for the elderly, mentally ill and physically challenged.

Craine said her organization would not take the cuts “lying down.”

“We definitely intend to serve our seniors,” she added. The center will have to find “creative ways” to supplement lost government funding.

The spending guidelines would hit social service programs harder than other areas facing cuts, said Joel Carp, senior vice president at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, which was also profiled in the study.

“We could be devastated,” he said. “This is not about cuts to agencies or federations — it’s destruction of services to people. It’s about services we will not be able to provide.”

In its own assessment of the House budget cuts, the federation concluded that its Security Deposit Guarantee Program would serve 64 fewer homeless families a year because of the funding loss.

In fiscal year 1994, the federation helped 468 people, according to the assessment, “Individuals and Families Without a Safety Net,” which was published last month.

Carp estimated that the organization’s non-health care programs would lose about $7 million in funding a year, depriving about 7,000 people of services.

To try to combat the cuts, the federation sent 30 of its representatives to Capitol Hill in May to meet with lawmakers and Clinton administration officials.

Carp said that although the federation has a good giving base, it would be “impossible” to make up the funding gap and continue some of its services.

“If we lose millions of dollars, we will not serve thousands of people. We can’t make up the difference,” he said.

Lauter of Atlanta expressed similar sentiments.

“We’re hard pressed to know how to make up the difference” in funding that the cuts would leave, she said, adding that private donations are not likely plug the holes.

“We’re always trying to sell why it is important for Jews to give,” she said. Now, charities will have to “strengthen that plea,” she added.

There is one ray of hope for charities, said David Arons, a legislative assistant at Independent Sector.

The budget bill is a non-binding set of spending guidelines that congressional authorization and appropriations committees use to set their spending. Charities could take their case for specific programs to those committees and “hope for the best,” he said.

Independent Sector asked more than 200 of its affiliates to participate in the study, based on their location and the types of services they provided. Although the organizations profiled were not a national sample, their programs represented those likely to receive government funding.

Among the other Jewish social services agencies profiled in the Independent Sector study were the Jewish Home for the Aged and United Jewish Community Centers in San Francisco; the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles; and the Jewish Family Services and Jewish Vocational in Atlanta.

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