Raleigh, N.C. — Triangle-area nonprofits said Tuesday that Congress should look at closing tax loopholes and exemptions instead of enacting another round of federal budget cuts next month.
Congress has two weeks to reach a budget deal before the 2014-15 federal fiscal year starts Oct. 1. If no deal is reached, the next round of sequestration cuts kicks in, reducing federal spending across the board on domestic and defense programs.
A coalition of local food banks and programs that serve children or senior citizens said last spring's sequestration cuts made it difficult for them to provide services to North Carolina families. Domestic discretionary spending is already at 1950s levels, and donations are down because of the lingering effects of the recession, they said.
Meals on Wheels of Wake County, which delivers 1,300 meals a day to home-bound residents, had to cut 12,000 meals from its budget because of sequestration, director Alan Winstead said.
"Two out of three (recpients) live at or below the poverty level, their average age is 77 and more than one half of them live alone," Winstead said.
Likewise, food pantries have been cut, even as high unemployment has sent demand skyrocketing. Head Start and early childhood programs are serving fewer families.
"We know firsthand that we cannot cut our way to prosperity through another round of devastating sequestration," said Laura Benson, executive director of Durham's Partnership for Children.
Allan Freyer, a policy analyst with the left-leaning North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, said Congress should look for a more balanced approach to a balanced budget. Eliminating tax loopholes and exemptions that benefit the wealthiest individuals and corporations could provide the government with $1 trillion, hy said, and take the burden of balancing the budget off the most vulnerable citizens.
"Seventy-five percent of all the deficit reduction we've done since 2011 has happened in programs just like this," Freyer said. "They are at the lowest level since the 1950s. It seems to me that there's not much more that we can ask of them."
Ernest Chavis, 73, said he doesn't know how he will survive if Meals on Wheels is forced to cut back its services. The Raleigh resident gets a meal delivered to his doorstep every Monday through Friday.
"It means a whole lot, a whole lot to elderly people my age and older. It means a whole lot," Chavis said. "Hope they don't cut it. We'd be in pretty bad shape."