We’re Hot in Washington

We picked a hot time to visit with Kentucky’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C, both literally and figuratively.…

We spent a lot of time trying not to melt in the heat on our walks between offices, while sensing the intense heat Congress faces to address the current budget crisis. As we waited for each of our meetings to begin, staffers were frantically answering phones trying to keep up with call after call about the debt ceiling.

On Tuesday, we met with staffers from Sen. Rand Paul’s office and Rep. Hal Roger’s office. We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Rep. Geoff Davis and Rep. John Yarmuth. On Wednesday, we met with a staffer from Rep. Whitfield’s office.

Things were busy at the capitol this week, and we appreciated the staff and Congressmen taking time out of their day to hear our concerns about the impact of budget cuts on children.

While they all said they want to see a prosperous future for Kentucky’s children, we heard different approaches to the debt ceiling debate. Many members and their staff voiced a commitment to stick to cuts, including cuts to the children’s budget – a move that would hurt kids, and only make a dent in the deficit. This was disappointing, but not surprising. We appreciated Rep. Yarmuth’s continued stance on the need for a balanced approach that raises revenues and protects programs that serve Kentucky families.

In the meetings, we focused on four areas: protecting children in the budget and children’s health programs, restoring funding for juvenile justice, and beginning the conversation on TANF reauthorization. Some of our concerns include the following:

  • Medicaid provides services for children in need and should be protected. It is a cost-effective strategy as children account for only 20 percent of spending but represent half of all Medicaid enrollees.
  • The current House Agriculture appropriations bill would cut WIC participation in KY by 4,500 low-income women and children. Children that do not reliably get enough food are more likely to be sick, to be hospitalized, and to fall behind in school, harming their development and reducing their ability to contribute to our economy.
  • Proposals to cut SNAP benefits would mean more hungry kids. SNAP participation has increased 30 percent in Kentucky since the recession started and helps Kentuckians feed their families. Children in food-insecure households whose families participate in SNAP are significantly more likely to be in good or excellent health than children in similar families that do not have access to the program.
  • Federal juvenile justice funding has been cut 50 percent since FY 2002. States need flexible federal funding to implement cost-effective, evidence-based programs to reduce delinquency and keep communities safe.

We talked at length with Sen. Paul’s office about the need for juvenile justice reform in Kentucky, and with Rep. Davis about the importance of child welfare and the problem of child fatalities in Kentucky. A staffer from Rep. Rogers’ office explained that although Rogers is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, they leave decisions about spending to the authorizing committees. And Rep. Yarmuth, a frequent advocate for raising revenues to strengthen programs helping low-income Kentuckians and Americans, was visibly tired and frustrated both with his colleagues and the President. Time is ticking away. No deal has been made. Low-income Americans and children will suffer either way.

Today, we are meeting with Rep. Guthrie and staff from Sen. McConnell’s office. We don’t anticipate hearing any more news about the debt ceiling. We’ll continue to push for minimal impacts on Kentucky’s most precious asset, our youth.

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