Budget Challeges Ahead?

One of the most important functional areas for the Jewish Federations of North America is its Washington Action Office. Their focus is to monitor and lobby legislation that will impact the American Jewish community, as well as the general community in coalition with others. They are our “eyes and ears” on the ground in Washington, DC and work closely with our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to discuss potential challenges on the state level.

The Washington Action Office recently shared the following: 

On March 16, President Trump submitted his America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again to Congress. Referred to by the Administration as a “skinny” budget with more detail to be released later this spring, this proposal for FY 2018 provides information only on discretionary spending funded through the appropriations process. 

While the budget is lean on details and we do not know the exact impact of its proposed cuts, we do know that if enacted this budget would have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in our communities who receive publicly-funded services provided by Jewish Federation partner agencies. If this budget is adopted, those clients who are older adults, people with disabilities, immigrants or refugees, among others, and receive publicly-funded services at Jewish nursing homes, Jewish Family Services, Jewish Community Centers, assisted living centers, etc., their services will be significantly impacted. 

Based on this document, the Administration intends to stick to the budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which have already decreased the non-defense discretionary budget by more than $150 billion. Accordingly, the President would add $54 billion to the defense side of the ledger while simultaneously reducing that amount from non-defense spending.  

Under this Budget Blueprint, every agency and department is cut other than the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Departments. Based on the limited detail provided, we do not know exactly how most specific programs would fare, but the budget submission notes that “consistent with the President’s approach to move the Nation towards fiscal responsibility, the Budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs.” 

Here are some of the cuts that would be applied to the departments that provide significant funding to our local Jewish agencies: 

•Health and Human Services (16.2% reduction). HHS funds a multitude of programs utilized by all publicly-funded Jewish human service agencies covering everything from adoption and child care to senior services and hospice at the end of life. 

We are also greatly concerned about the potential impact Medicaid cuts could have on Cedar Sinai Park. 

•Housing and Urban Development (13.2% reduction). HUD funds Section 202 independent living for seniors and Section 811 group homes for persons with disabilities.  

State (28.7% reduction). While the State Department budget would sharply reduce most foreign aid and eliminate a number of offices including the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the budget would provide $3.1 billion “to meet the security assistance commitment to Israel, currently at an all-time high; ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats and maintain its Quality Military Edge.” 

In most cases, we do not know which specific programs would be cut within the departments listed above. We are not suggesting that all will be cut in part or totally, but that is certainly  possible. If $54 billion is cut from non-defense discretionary appropriations next year, there is no ambiguity:  dollars flowing to Jewish agencies will be reduced significantly. Accordingly, we urge you to raise the following points with our Senators and Representatives: 

1)    End sequestration! These are the automatic spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act. This process was never intended to go into effect, and it has already reduced discretionary spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.  

2)    If sequestration continues, maintain relative parity between the defense and non-defense components of the appropriation bills.  

3)    Don’t cut valuable social service programs that protect the most vulnerable in our communities.  

We will continue to monitor the situation in partnership with the Washington Action Office. 


A few additional local community notes: 

The Mittleman Jewish Community Center is sponsoring a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. This will be a community conversation and panel discussion focusing on the spiritual, emotional, and political response to the issues facing the Jewish community. This program is free and open to everyone. 

Disaster preparedness is always on the minds of us in the Pacific Northwest. I found this story about Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians joining forces to provide the best possible response in case of an earthquake striking the Israel-Jordan border of great interest.

Also, I am deeply proud of our community. In just 10 short days, we raised in excess of $7,000 for Passover 4All, a collaborative effort between Congregation Kesser Israel, Jewish Family and Child Service, and the Jewish Federation to provide Passover food boxes to over 120 local families. This blew past our goal of $5,000. The additional dollars will be used for any other families needing Passover food and for emergency services at JFCS. 

As part of this effort, I received the following email from a community member who wrote, “We were once a recipient of this box. It was a pleasure being able to pay it forward!” That is what giving is all about. Thank you to everyone who supported this effort. 

And, now with Passover only 11 days away, I encourage you to visit our excellent Passover resource page for information from Passover traditions to local seder opportunities. 

Finally, I look forward to joining 400 volunteers this Sunday for the annual Good Deeds Day and JSERVE Teen Day of Service. Thank you to those of you giving your time and energy to make our community better.

Shabbat shalom.



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