Faithful Budget Stories – California

This series looks at how the sequester, or any poorly conceived deficit reduction strategy that drastically cuts programs vital to the health and wellbeing of our nation’s most vulnerable, will impact church communities.

The California Council of Churches mobilizes 1.5 million members statewide and has long supported policy and education efforts to nurture good health. The Council, along with many peer charities, has already started spending staff time and resources to conduct education and outreach to Californians who are uninsured and need help enrolling for health insurance via the new Exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act.  The Council expects to get a federal grant to carry out their work, but the terms of the grant specify that if the $43 million in federal funds allocated for California health education is cut from the federal budget, no one will receive the money. This uncertainty has potentially disastrous implications for both the California Council of Churches’ organizational stability and for the Californians they and their peer charities serve.

The California Council of Churches plans to hire five Outreach Managers and one Project Director.  If the money is cut, those workers would be left high and dry, with no jobs. The Council also plans to move funds into the general economy via travel, accommodations for the Outreach Managers on the road, for printing, etc.  These jobs and all the local economic activity they would generate would be left behind with this one potential cut.

As much as the California Council would hurt from these cuts, potential negative impacts on people they serve (especially the working poor) are even more concerning. If Congress cuts funding for education about the Exchange, California’s primary plan for educating people about how to use it will be undermined. Come January 2014, people who need insurance and the subsidies that make it affordable would be on their own. California congregations would have no resource materials to give their members and communities they serve. People would be on their own to figure out how to use the Exchange, and those who lack the resources to do so might not get the subsidies they are entitled to receive. If everyday people cannot afford insurance in the open market, we all suffer in their falling once again into the emergency room cycle of “health care,” despite the fact we now have policy to fix it.

“Cutting the $43 million in health education would undermine California’s health care efficiency and cost savings, and it will also reduce ability for church organizations and charities to make good on promises to new hires and pay for any costs already incurred. It would be a nightmare,” says Elizabeth Sholes, Director of Public Policy for the California Council of Churches. “We require thoughtful deliberations on behalf of the domestic funding programs.  We look to the Circle of Protection to be our voice, and we will mobilize people in CA to add theirs. We cannot protect defense spending that even the Joint Chiefs say is unnecessary by billions while cutting basic help to those needing health care.  That is an imbalance that will destabilize our economy and therefore our nation.  We cannot let this happen.”

For more information about the California Council of Churches and how the impending Sequester may impact them, contact:

Elizabeth Sholes
Director of Public Policy
California Council of Churches/California Church IMPACT
4044 Pasadena Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95821
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