Catholic Charities USA is strongly urging members of Congress not to cut crucial social service and anti-poverty programs in order to finance hurricane recovery.

Recent budget proposals have Congress considering even deeper cuts to the fiscal 2006 budget, especially to programs that serve the nation's poor and most vulnerable.

"We agree that it is of the utmost importance that Congress continue to focus relief on the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and communities," Catholic Charities president Fr. Larry Snyder wrote in a letter to members of Congress. But he added that it shouldn’t be at the expense of the poor and most vulnerable, he said.

Catholic Charities agencies throughout the United States are addressing the needs for housing, food and childcare for the country’s poor, as well as providing assistance to hurricane survivors and evacuees.

Fr. Snyder recommended that, in debating final changes to the 2006 fiscal budget, Congress oppose mandatory spending reductions to Medicaid, which provides essential health coverage to more than 50 million low-income children, working families, seniors, and people with disabilities. The program has already experienced cuts in nearly every state over the past few years, and federal funding reductions would force states into further eligibility cuts, thereby adding thousands of people to the ranks of the uninsured, Fr. Snyder pointed out.

Catholic Charities also recommended opposing substantial cuts in a number of anti-poverty programs, including the Food Stamp Program, Supplemental Security Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Social Services Block Grant, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

“With poverty growing and many states' revenues dropping, this is not the time for Congress to shift its share of the burden of caring for the poorest Americans to the states,” the Catholic organization noted.

“Adequate funding is needed for programs that provide affordable housing and homeless assistance, child welfare services, childcare assistance, low-income home energy assistance, food assistance, employment and job training services, refugee resettlement and migration assistance, and other programs that serve the poor and vulnerable,” Catholic Charities insisted.