The plight of the poor, even those unable to meet basic financial security despite working full-time jobs, is the single greatest contributor to a range of problems of concern to members of the Virginia Interfaith Center. On March 10th the regular General Assembly session concluded without an agreement on the budget. While time is of the essence to ensure that localities can appropriately plan and budget, the final budget must also accurately reflect our priorities as a Commonwealth.
The ongoing aftershocks of the Great Recession are being felt by hard working Virginians throughout the state. Poverty is on the rise in the Commonwealth, and enrollment in programs such as food assistance, TANF and Medicaid are still at records highs. These programs, and numerous others, help hard-working Virginians provide for the basic needs of their families during times of economic distress. They are the greatest priority to the Virginia Interfaith Center and its members. We are united in our concern for the most vulnerable in our communities and certain of the Government's ability to affect systemic change through sound public policies that help those living on the margins.
Please ask your Senator to ensure that the Commonwealth's final budget is one that reflects widespread concern for our most vulnerable Virginians. While there are numerous concerns, below are three priority areas that require protection:
Protect Virginians Living on the Margins
Nearly $2.4 million was cut from child care subsidies for families ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in the Governor's budget. This critical programming allows parents to safely place their young children in child care while they work. These are working families living on the margins and these critical benefits assist with their ultimate self-sufficiency. In addition, funds must be restored to local Social Service Departments ensure that they are able to satisfying existing caseload requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid and Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), and other public assistance programs.
Restore Funding to the Health Care Safety Net
The Governor's original budget made drastic cuts to Virginia's health care safety net by slashing funding for free clinics, eliminating 4,500 nursing home residents from Medicaid, and defunding the Comprehensive Health Improvement Program (CHIP). The House and Senate budgets restored significant portions of these programs and those restorations must be protected throughout the budget negotiations. In addition, this session both chambers approved the policy of and funding for providing prenatal care through Medicaid to low-income, legally present immigrants during their first 5 years in the United States. By providing prenatal care, the state avoids the cost of caring for women and children who experience health complications due to the lack of care.
Use Funds from the Mortgage Settlement Agreement on Housing Issues
Virginia will receive a direct, one-time payment of $69 million from the national Mortgage Settlement Agreement, which came about as a result of the damage that mortgage abuse did to families and to our housing market. The funds from the settlement should be invested in a Housing Trust fund to help Virginia families avoid foreclosure.
Please contact your elected officials today and ask that they prioritize the needs of vulnerable Virginians throughout the budget negotiations.
To send an email, enter your zip code below: