By Danielle Marse-Kapr
Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate for Economic Empowerment
It’s that time of year again: Congress and the White House are producing federal budget proposals. The President, and House Republican and Democratic committees, have all released their budgets. Senate proposals from each party will likely come out later this month. Appropriators are working to allot funds to various budget lines.
Our job as advocates is to remind legislators to pass a fair and responsible budget that protects women and families. Here are three questions to ask when interpreting the federal budget and advocating for what women and children need the most:
1. Will This Year’s Budget End the Sequester?
This is the most critical component of analyzing federal budget proposals. Sequestration was never intended to go into effect. It was enacted as a threat, intended to ensure that legislators would do their jobs and pass a fair budget. Instead, the people have been punished with an unreasonable budget. Some of the budget proposals that will come out will include avenues to ending the Sequester over a number of years. Others will ensure that these deep cuts to critical programs continue. If sequestration continues, human services advocates will be forced to continue negotiating away already-minuscule funds.
2. What are the Pay-Fors?
The term “pay-for” refers to the idea that nothing can be added to the budget without finding a way to “pay for it.” While this may appear to be simple budgetary math (you can’t spend more than you have), the pay-fors often do not increase revenue or even eliminate wasteful spending; instead, they are used as political bargaining chips, intended to wear out advocates by forcing them to “choose” between one necessary program and another. Whenever funding is restored or increased in one important funding area, we must inspect from where that money originated.
3. Will the Federal Budget Cut into Important Funding Streams for the YWCA?
YWCAs provide critical services in local communities. Often these services are supported by federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA), the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). In an already challenging economic climate, the women and families we serve will be further harmed by continued cuts in these areas. However, it’s important to always keep question #2 of this list in mind. Additional money designated for our budget priorities is always welcomed, but we must be cognizant of where that money was found.
Understanding the federal budget can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep these three questions in mind when you’re advocating for a fair and responsible budget and you’ll be on the right track. And don’t be afraid to ask your legislators tough questions about the federal budget — the budget not only funds the United States’ programs, but also illustrates our values.
Let’s make sure our national budget values women and families. Contact your legislators today and tell them to support a fair budget that supports women and families by ending sequestration.