Dear Congressmen: Avoid Across-the-Board Cuts and Protect the Most Vulnerab

by Gordon Haas

By the end of this week we will know if the Federal Government has acquiesced to sequestration or if it plans to make a deal that will focus on targeted budget cuts. The impact of either of these decisions will have a direct impact on Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — our Federation.

Our Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) has been busy getting the word out to the six Congressmen and two Senators that cover the Greater MetroWest territory. Our message is: protect the safety net for the most vulnerable. Don’t allow budget cuts that will hurt the frail and elderly, mentally impaired and disabled; and those who have been impacted the hardest by the down-turned economy.

And, protect the ability of charities such as Federation and the other 153 federations in the U.S. to do their work of serving the vulnerable, often with shrinking resources and government support.

It is moments like this that make me very proud of being chair of the CRC. Not only are we a strong voice in support of Israel and stopping Iran’s nuclear proliferation, but we are the voice to the elected officials on the needs and expertise of our beneficiary agencies. Nationally, Jewish Federations of North America’s good work is very respected, which is reflected by the fact that William Daroff, executive vice president of the Washington Action Office of JFNA, was one of four individuals who testified on the impact of charitable deductions to the House Congressional Ways and Means Committee.

The CRC is working with the JFNA Action Office. Home visits have been held with Congressmen Garrett, Frelinghuysen, Donald Payne Jr., and Lance’s chief of staff. In Washington, visits were made to New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez. Letters were sent to Congressmen Holt and Sires.

We spoke with them about the philanthropic work of Federation and its efforts to support 27 social services agencies in Essex, Morris, Sussex, Union, and parts of Somerset County. Many of these agencies provide support for older adults, including aging-in-place programs, mobility options, and meals on wheels to the homebound; services for individuals of all ages with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities; programs for at-risk children, youth and families; vocational training and job placement services, and many more.

What is the solution you might ask? That is not our job. What we know is there are more humane ways to cut than by sequestration. Health and Human Services and FEMA funds provide great support to our Jewish Family Service agencies and provide emergency food and housing. Security grants help to ensure that our institutions are safe. These are a few areas that we believe need special attention and protection.

The CRC appreciates the tough choices that members of Congress need to make to reduce the federal deficit. However, the sequestration is more than a bottom line issue; it directly impacts every member of the community and its present and future needs. We will continue to urge Congress to do all it can to avoid across-the-board cuts and create a safety net for the most vulnerable people in the United States.

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