DHN Coalition Letter to Congress: Domestic Priorities

September 23, 2008

Members of the United States Congress
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Member of Congress,

As members of the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, in devotion to our common religious traditions of justice and compassion, we urge you to champion the needs of our nation's most vulnerable as you work to address the economic challenges we all face. Our shared scripture teaches, “If there is a needy person among you…you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). We call on you to increase funding for nutrition programs, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and home energy assistance. We also urge you to extend unemployment insurance and provide more aid to states for Medicaid before you adjourn for recess.

Nutrition Assistance: Increasing nutrition assistance will not only prevent crises in many American families, but will also stimulate our economy. For every $1 invested in temporary food stamp improvements, $1.73 is generated in increased economic activity, making food stamp benefits one of the most effective stimulus measures available. We therefore urge you to increase food stamp benefit levels and funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to meet the growing need of families across the country.

Emergency Food and Shelter: Nutrition needs are amplified by the natural disasters that have ravaged the nation in recent months. Today, too many families are struggling to find shelter and feed their loved ones. We therefore urge you to support more funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) to help families begin to recover from recent storms and floods.

Home Energy Assistance: With energy prices skyrocketing and winter rapidly approaching, low-income families are again searching for a way to heat their homes. Though the demand is high—and getting higher— the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) served only one in six eligible families in 2008. We therefore urge you to fully fund LIHEAP at its authorized level to ensure a safe winter for low-income families.

Unemployment Insurance: Unemployment has increased over the past year, with 2.2 million jobs lost, most of which were lost in the past 4 months. Just last month the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent. In the current economic climate, jobs are hard to come by and unemployment insurance plays an important role in preventing families from falling into economic crisis. We therefore urge you to provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance to aid the economy and realistically address the needs of the American workers.

Aid to States for Programs Serving Vulnerable People: Between falling revenues and rising needs, state and local governments are facing terrible budgetary choices. Many are considering deep cuts in child health programs, Medicaid, programs for abused and neglected children, and child care, among other needed services. Because Medicaid, the healthcare program that provides vital healthcare for to people who are desperately in need (elderly adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families), is one of the largest budget items of most states, it is a likely target for cuts to close budget deficits. We therefore urge you to help states prevent these cuts and address health care needs by increasing the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP).

Everyday faith organizations serve individuals in need within our communities. However, we cannot meet the growing need alone. Our efforts must be complemented by policies and funding levels that recognize the hardships faced by millions of families across the country. Before leaving for recess, please do your part to be sure that families do not have to make impossible choices between feeding their children, heating their homes, and filling their prescriptions in the coming months.


American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
Union for Reform Judaism
The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries