Tiffany Kaszuba, Policy Associate
Once upon a time, or, you know, eight months ago, Washington could not stop talking about sequestration and the need to replace the damaging cuts with whichever option was most abhorrent to the other side of the aisle. Democrats demanded revenue. Republicans demanded entitlement cuts. All the while, Americans struggled to make sense out of why their children were getting kicked out of Head Start; why their local food bank closed its doors; and why the threat of West Nile Virus had sky rocketed after years of dormancy.
To tell the stories of the impacts of these and other recent budget cuts on real Americans, NDD United, led by the Coalition for Health Funding, published a report – Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure. The stories highlighted the effects of budget cuts on everything from housing to education, public health to international affairs, and infrastructure to job training and science. And, perhaps more importantly, it demonstrated all of the ways in which the federal government improves and protects Americans’ lives every day.
Shortly after the release of Faces of Austerity, Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan reached a deal that provided partial, temporary relief (60 percent for 2014 and 25 percent for 2015) from sequestration.
And then, as documented by the Washington Post recently, the conversation stopped.
But the cuts definitely didn’t. And neither did the pain they inflict.
To reinvigorate the conversation about the continued impact of budget cuts, the Coalition for Health Funding decided to produce a “1.2 version” of “Faces of Austerity,” focused solely on cuts to health programs. At a briefing on July 15, 2014 that drew standing room only attendance and congressional staff from both sides of the aisle, the Coalition released Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America’s Health.
The briefing featured several individuals from across the country that travelled to Washington, DC to share their story. Eve Anthony, of the Athens Community Council on Aging, drew tears out of attendees with the story of Ms. Brown, an elderly woman who relies on senior meals for nutrition and who asks “How did I get here?” Dr. Shobha Ghosh, a cardiology researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, explained staff cuts at her lab and the young researchers who are leaving science for more reliable jobs. Paulette Valentine, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response in Southwest Utah, shocked the crowd as she explained that budget cuts slashed her workforce by 57 percent since 2007, leaving populations at risk, and Tim Starkey, of the Great Salt Plains Health Center in Cherokee, Oklahoma spoke of the loss of primary care physicians in rural America due to cuts to the National Health Service Corps.
These stories, and others featured in the report, are why Congress needs to come together to end the era of austerity that is currently plaguing the nation. Health funding, while at the discretion of Congress, is definitely not discretionary. These programs are a critical part of every American’s life. The Coalition for Health Funding continues to call on Congress to fix sequestration once and for all and reinstate funding for the programs that keep the public healthy and secure.
For a copy of the report, please visit www.cutshurt.org, or join the conversation on Twitter at #cutshurt.
The Coalition for Health Funding and NDD United are headquartered at and staffed by CRD Associates.
To stay up to date on the latest public health funding information, follow the Coalition on Twitter at @healthfunding.