United Way’s Letter to Budget Conferees: “Make investments in people and communities”

Stacey Stewart, the U.S. President of United Way, released her letter to the Budget conferees as they work to meet by December 13. In the letter, she advocates for a responsible, bipartisan, and comprehensive path towards growing the economy and investing in our greatest asset: the American people.

stacey stewart

Stacey Stewart, U.S. President of United Way

As the Budget Conference works toward a bipartisan budget agreement by the December 13, 2013 deadline, I encourage you to make investments in people and communities that will secure the long-term success of our nation. I urge you to adequately fund proven education, income and health programs at pre-sequestration levels, and agree to meaningful priorities rather than allowing for arbitrary across-the-board cuts. I ask you to protect critical federal tax policies that help people achieve financial stability and enable the nonprofit sector to provide services to families and communities in need.

United Way is the largest privately funded public charity in the United States. We are also the largest nongovernment funder of human services. Every day, local United Ways in every congressional district and in every state use private charitable contributions to leverage publicly funded programs that help tens of millions of Americans. We help people most in need, but also the working poor and much of the middle class. Charities do not work in a vacuum; we work in partnership with the business community and all levels of government. The societal work of our three sectors is intertwined and the reduction and elimination of public services cannot be replaced by the charitable sector.

Therefore, I respectfully request that you consider the following recommendations in support of strong families and communities:

Mitigate funding cuts to education, income and health programs. The cuts imposed by sequestration are already harming our nation’s safety net and communities across America. From nearly 57,000 children being kicked out of Head Start to up to 65,000 families losing the opportunity to secure affordable housing, Americans from all across the country are feeling the negative effects of sequestration. At a moment when economic security is already compromised for communities nationwide, we cannot afford to see further erosion of financial support for programs that provide opportunity for millions of Americans. If these automatic cuts continue, some of our nation’s most critical programs and services would face even more devastating shortages and resources, with potentially catastrophic consequences for millions of our most vulnerable citizens.

Protect America’s strong tradition of giving by protecting the full value of the charitable deduction. As United Ways and other charities struggle to meet increased demand for services, and raise the necessary funds to meet those needs, it is imperative that charitable giving incentives be protected and strengthened. Any limit to the incentive created by the charitable deduction would hobble the capacity of charities to provide assistance to the families and individuals most in need, and most at risk. Combined, continued spending cuts and changes to the charitable deduction would present a dual threat to communities already struggling to make ends meet. By rejecting any new limits to the charitable deduction, we can provide much-needed public services and leverage private resources that create opportunities for all Americans.

 Support working families by protecting and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) help low and moderate income working families make ends meet, promote and support work, and lift nearly five million children out of poverty. More than 340 United Ways across the United States help individuals and families access the EITC and CTC through community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and other programs. Recent improvements that provide marriage penalty relief and modestly higher support for larger families should be made permanent. Additionally, the EITC should be expanded for childless workers and the age of eligibility should be lowered so that younger workers who are just starting out can receive the credit. By protecting these credits and prioritizing EITC and CTC improvements, Congress can continue to make smart investments in incentivizing hard work and enabling children and families to have successful futures.

These priorities reflect a vision for our country where all individuals and families achieve their human potential. The budget negotiations present an opportunity to take a responsible, bipartisan and comprehensive path towards growing the economy and investing in our greatest asset: the American people. It is clear that the federal budget and appropriations process is broken. A bipartisan budget agreement is the first step in fixing the dysfunction in Washington.

I respectfully request that you reverse the harmful impacts of sequestration; protect the capacity of the charitable sector to serve communities; and support tax credits that strengthen working families. I look forward to supporting you all on this important work as negotiations proceed.

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