Congress protects poverty assistance program from proposed Trump cuts


WASHINGTON (JTA) – Congress maintained funding levels for a poverty assistance program favored by Jewish groups in the face of proposed Trump administration cuts.

A Jewish Federations of North America memo sent Wednesday to JTA and first circulated among member federations May 5 noted that the massive spending bill approved last week includes $120 million for the emergency food and shelter program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in partnership with faith groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, or JFNA.

President Donald Trump had proposed cutting $20 million in funding for the program, which assists the working poor.

“We are grateful to Congress for opposing what would have amounted to a devastating cut to a program designed to be fast, flexible and responsive to local needs, and which is lauded by providers as an essential stop-gap measure for families in crisis,” William Daroff, JFNA’s Washington director, said in the memo. “This program fulfills our Jewish communal mandate of providing for the hungry and the homeless.

The memo also noted that the nonprofit security grant program, which provides funds for institutions that want to enhance security protections, was hiked to $25 million from $20 million. The program, founded in 2005, has been overwhelmingly used until now by Jewish institutions.

The Trump administration reportedly is considering rolling the program into separate emergency assistance programs, which the JFNA opposes, fearing it would make it more difficult to access the funds.

A program launched by the Obama administration that dedicates government resources to assistance for the dwindling population of Holocaust survivors living in the United States was funded at $2.5 million, consistent with previous years.

The $1.17 trillion spending bill, which keeps the government running through September, also keeps in place the Lautenberg Amendment, which extends protections to refugees from religious persecution, and urges the Trump administration to name a State Department envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

Trump has sought to suspend temporarily refugee intake and reportedly has considered ending the anti-Semitism envoy post.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week thanked Congress for maintaining present levels of defense assistance to Israel.

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