Worried about looming spending cuts as a result of “sequestration,” the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ is urging local lawmakers to support a deal to avoid it.
The CRC has been holding small leadership meetings with Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11), Scott Garrett (R-Dist. 5), and Donald Payne (D-Dist. 10), and with Amanda Wolo-
shen, district director to Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7).
In each of the meetings, the CRC asked the lawmakers to do all they can to avoid across-the-board cuts and ensure that safety net spending is maintained at a time of shrinking resources and declining government support.
“If Congress allows sequestration to be implemented on March 1, it could have serious negative effects on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the largest of the non-defense departments,” said Melanie Roth Gorelick, CRC director. “This, in turn, could be devastating to nonprofit social service organizations, including the beneficiary agencies of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and the many thousands of low-income and vulnerable people they serve.
“Although we do not know exactly how the sequestration will specifically translate down to the grant-making level, we do know it would impact some key HHS programs utilized by our agencies,” Gorelick added.
The Greater MetroWest federation provides non-sectarian social services through 27 social services agencies in Essex, Morris, Sussex, Union, and parts of Somerset County. Services include support for seniors; those with physical developmental disabilities; at-risk children, youth and families; and those needing vocational training and job placement service.
Jewish Family Service of MetroWest and Jewish Family Service of Central NJ, both of which partner with the government in serving Jews and non-Jews, could face the biggest impact from sequestration, said the CRC. Currently, 14 percent of JFS MetroWest’s operating budget is augmented by federal funding sources that support a wide range of programs, including emergency rent and utility payments, nutrition programs for senior citizens, and comprehensive social work services.
“Proposed sequestration reductions in these areas will affect an estimated 1,075 local community members, resulting in an increased waiting list for JFS services and even more dire unanticipated consequences,” Reuben D. Rotman, executive director of JFS MetroWest, wrote in a recent oped in NJJN.
In addition, the JCC MetroWest senior nutrition program in Essex County estimates that these cuts would incur a loss of 1,200 meals to 40 homebound seniors.
In Union County, Jewish Family Service of Central NJ and the YM-YWHA of Union County also help to feed hundreds of older adults through meals on wheels and other lunch programs.
Almost 25 percent of the Y’s budget for childcare, afterschool programming, and nutrition programs for seniors and young children comes from government sources.
Jewish day schools will also feel the impact, according to the CRC. A 5.1 percent reduction in federal special education programs would mean less supplemental instruction, staff, and support for students with learning disabilities.
The CRC advocacy effort is part of a national mobilization organized by the Jewish Federation of North America, which represents 154 federations and their beneficiary agencies.
“Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ appreciates the tough choices that members of Congress need to make to reduce the federal deficit,” said Gordon Haas, CRC chair. “However, the sequestration is more than a bottom line issue; it directly impacts every member of the community and their present and future needs. We urge Congress to do all it can to avoid across-the-board cuts and create a safety net for the most vulnerable people in the United States.”