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Act Now to Protect Critical Safety Net Programs!
As I take office as your new National President, it is disturbing to once again see Congress deep in deliberations about several pieces of legislation that could significantly harm the welfare of our friends in need. Action on these legislative proposals is expected at any moment. Thus, I would ask that you write immediately to your Senators to ask them to do the following:
  1. Support the renewal of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which affects almost 9 million of our nation's most vulnerable--children who need health care.
     
  2. Oppose a Budget Resolution that would establish a 2018 financial framework for Federal spending that would allow deep cuts to important social services safety net programs. These include proposed, dramatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, sometimes referred to as "food stamps"), Medicaid, refundable tax credits for low-income working families (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, i.e.; welfare), Supplemental Security Income, and the like.
A short time ago, our National Voice of the Poor Committee prepared an Advocacy Backgrounder (click here) on the value of CHIP. That Backgrounder points out that this Program, in effect since 1997, has steadily reduced the rate of uninsured children to our country's lowest - about 5% currently from a high of 14% when it started. Technically, the CHIP program expired September 30, but Congress is now engaged in what appears to be a bi-partisan effort to resurrect it and pass a renewal before serious damage is done to the health care of our vulnerable children.

Aspects of the Federal Budget Resolutions now under review also threaten the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Though the Resolutions themselves would not change the individual safety net programs immediately - further legislation is necessary for that to happen - the Resolutions open the gate by establishing financial goals and legislative mechanisms that make it far more likely that very harmful changes will indeed occur.
 
From your home visits to the poor to your encounters with our friends in need at our Vincentian specials works (food pantries, thrift stores, dining halls, medical clinics, etc.), you know full well the critical value of these Federal programs in ensuring that the poor and marginalized can at least get-by and have a chance to pull themselves up. You understand both the Vincentian call to charity and to justice.
 
Consequently, I ask you to send the template message here (or, preferably a version you modify with your own personal story) to your Congressional elected officials as soon as possible. We will keep monitoring the deliberations in Congress and may well be in contact with you again to ask for social justice advocacy on specific legislation as it evolves and emerges. For now, we join with many other faith-based groups, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA, in calling on Congress to protect and help those most vulnerable among us. 
 
Yours in Vincentian charity and justice,
 
Ralph B. Middlecamp
President
National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul
 
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