The Floor Is Yours

Last week I attended a town hall meeting hosted by the State Senators representing Lincoln and Lancaster County about the current budget shortfall and the upcoming special session of the State Legislature to address the gap.

I was genuinely touched by the number of Nebraskans speaking out on behalf of low income families.  Person after person stood up to speak in favor of making sure that families already struggling due to the recession were not further impacted by budget decisions.

And families are struggling.  Beatty Brasch, Nebraska Appleseed Board member and Executive Director of the Center for People in Need (www.centerforpeopleinneed.org) speaks eloquently to the growing need, particularly for health care, in a recent Midlands Voices column:  http://www.omaha.com/article/20091014/NEWS0802/710149996/-1/NEWS08.   She reports that the Food Bank of Lincoln, which serves 16 southeastern counties including Lancaster County, distributed 32 percent more food and that distribution programs report highly significant increases in the number of families seeking food.

Certainly, growing need applies to public programs as well.  The graph below from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (www.cbpp.org) illustrates a sharp incline in the need for Food Stamps/SNAP and unemployment in Nebraska:

Change in TANF, SNAP Cases and the number of unemployed persons

The folks who spoke in favor of protecting public programs serving low-income Nebraskans represented heartland values of community and family.  My guess is that those of you who support Nebraska Appleseed have similarly compelling stories and points of view, you believe in protecting the well-being of your friends and neighbors.  You wish you could have been there at the town hall meeting to say so.

Well, the public conversation certainly continues.  Senator Nordquist has developed a website: www.nebraskabudget.com so that Senators can hear from you as they work on difficult budget cuts. Please consider joining your fellow Nebraskans in advocating for low-income families.  To see Nebraska Appleseed’s suggestions, click here: http://neappleseed.org/docs/budget_priorites_final.pdf.  The “floor” is yours!

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