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Bishop says cuts are a matter of life and death

More than 60 faith and social service providers met Nov. 17 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church for an emergency summit to learn about and protest Washington Governor Christine Gregoire’s budget proposal with $2 billion in cuts that those gathered believe will slash crucial lifelines for the poor in housing, disability and health care assistance.

“The answer is not to keep shrinking services,” said Spokane’s Episcopal Bishop James Waggoner, Jr.  “We know that if state budget cuts go as projected, people will die.  It is a matter of life and death.”

With difficult economic times and cuts in state and federal programs, service providers, government agencies, nonprofits and faith groups said they are pressed to the limits of their resources.  The agencies are analyzing how cuts will affect their missions.

Panelists from Catholic Charities, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Volunteers of America answered questions on the effects of cuts.

The Rev. Kris Christensen, urban missioner at Holy Trinity and one of the summit organizers, said, “The longer I work in ministry, especially in West Central, the more I recognize that the problems of poverty are systemic.  We are seeing more hunger and homelessness in our neighborhood, and numbers are increasing at Holy Trinity’s Dinner Table.”

She said Christians are called to act on behalf of the poor.  She quoted the Episcopal baptismal covenant that asks new Christians: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

According to an Oct. 27 Spokesman-Review story, the cuts to social services may be nearly $381 million from child care, substance abuse treatment and economic services; $333 million from health care, eliminating the Basic Health plan and Disability Lifeline; $365 million from education, including $150 million in levy equalization, increasing the tax burden on low-income areas.

Through sharing, service providers learned of some programs they had not known about.  They also discussed options to increase revenue, close tax loopholes and make smart use of resources.  They encourage people to increase support of local charities through their time and talents as volunteers, and through donations.  They also urge people to write their elected officials to express their views on the cuts.

For information, call 995-3288 or email kris@trinityspokane.org.

Article compiled by resources provided by Sam Fletcher, communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane.