Help Prevent Drastic Cuts to SNAP
 
Dear Vincentians,

When Vincentians speak up for those we serve, we do so from a position unlike any other advocacy group. No other organization has, at its foundation, the spiritual development of its members. That foundational piece, along with the traditions of our founders, guidance from Catholic Social Teaching, and the petitions we hear during our personal encounters with the poor, compel us to lend our voices to the public debates about legislation affecting the most vulnerable.

We have another opportunity to be a voice of the poor over the next five weeks as members of Congress take a recess between August 5 and September 9.  I am asking that you use this time for prayer, collaboration, and personal contact with your U.S. representative to urge him or her to promote human life and dignity in our nation’s food, immigration and budget policies.

There are five components to my request:

(1)   Collaboration: Many members of the Vincentian Family have also been alerted to the need for these upcoming recess visits. If you know of Vincentian priests, Daughters of Charity or Ladies of Charity in your area, reach out to them and work together to get an appointment with your member of the U.S. House. You could also partner with other Catholic organizations such as Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, or others to coordinate visits. Here’s a useful website that will help you find your elected representatives and their contact information: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

 

(2)   Personal Visits: Just as we do when called by those in need, a personal visit to your representative (or one of his/her staff) is preferable. When that is not possible, please call or write both your Representative and your Senators. Share the stories of the impact that cuts to SNAP, the budget, and delayed immigration reform are having on those you see in your service. As always, please keep the names confidential. Some other talking points are below.

(3)   Personal Prayer: Tell your member of Congress that you will be praying for them. This effort of Taking a Legislator to Prayer is an idea that began with the Vincentian family and stays true to our spiritual foundation. We pray that our legislator will put concern for all people, but particularly the most vulnerable in our society, above partisanship when considering issues.

(4)   Participate in Public Forums, such as:
* Write and submit an editorial (op/ed) or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

*Participate in a town hall meeting with your elected official and voice your concerns.

* Invite your elected officials to see the good work going on at your SVdP to serve those who are struggling or living in poverty. (Remember that when speaking in public forums, you are speaking as an individual with a special concern for those in need, not speaking on behalf of the entire Society.)

* Share your advocacy stories. Just reply to this e-mail with any report on your activities in support of those we serve.

Talking Points
(1) Support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
* SNAP is a crucial part of the Farm Bill. Cuts or structural changes to the program that will harm poor and hungry people should be opposed.
* SNAP helps relieve pressure on overwhelmed parishes, charities, food banks and other emergency food providers who struggle to meet the needs of hungry people.
(2) Replace the sequester with a “circle of protection”:
* Remind both your Representative and Senators that the federal budget is a moral document with human consequences, and that they need to protect programs that help poor, unemployed and underemployed people still struggling in this economy.
* The sequester (automatic across the board cuts to federal programs) is hurting people living in poverty. The cuts to programs such as Head Start and Meals on Wheels are keeping families from meeting their basic needs.
(3) Support Bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform
* Pass bipartisan immigration reform that preserves and protects family unity and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented persons living in the United States.

Just to recap where the current situation is:

Farm Bill: On June 10, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill that included cuts of more than $4 billion to SNAP and nearly $6 billion in cuts to conservation programs over 10 years.  On July 11, the House passed a version of the Farm Bill that removes SNAP and the rest of the nutrition title from the Farm Bill. The House is now considering different options from cuts to structural changes to SNAP that, if passed, would have serious and harmful impacts on the most hungry and vulnerable seniors, unemployed, and children in our country that could significantly reduce their food stamp benefits.

The pathway forward on the Farm Bill is uncertain. Congress could begin to negotiate the process to reauthorize the Farm Bill when they return in September, or the House may attempt to pass a separate nutrition bill. Given time constraints, Congress may instead choose to extend the Farm Bill for a short period of time before the current extension ends on September 30.

Budget: On March 1, 2013, the sequester (a mandatory across the board cuts to most federal programs) went into effect, because Congress and the Administration were unable to reach an alternative agreement on federal spending and deficit reduction. Unless replaced, the sequester will stay in place for the next 10 years.

The federal fiscal year for 2014 begins Oct. 1, 2013. Congress must reach an agreement to keep funding the government by Sept. 30, 2013. The budget for FY 2014 should replace the sequester with a fair and just budget that reweaves a circle of protection around those programs that provide vital services to poor and hungry people at home and abroad.

Bi-Partisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation with significant bi-partisan support. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering whether to address immigration reform legislation that can provide significant relief to potentially millions of people and their families. The House may consider immigration bills when they return to Washington in September. It is important for Representatives to hear from their constituents when they are home that there is support for bi-partisan immigration reform that keeps families together and creates a path to citizenship.

The “scandal of hunger” which Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI have addressed, the plight of our immigrant sisters and brothers seeking a decent way of life for their families, and the struggle that many poor, underemployed and unemployed people continue to face in our nation call for us to respond and turn away from indifference. As Pope Francis stated during his trip to Brazil for World Youth Day 2013, “I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!”
Your voice is needed now to ensure that SNAP is protected, that bipartisan immigration reform passes, and that Congress supports a budget that protects poor and vulnerable people.

Yours in St. Vincent and Blessed Fr餩ric,

Sheila Gilbert

President

National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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