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Federal Budget Cuts Next up for New Mexico?

April 1, 2011

FARMINGTON, N. M. - A handful of New Mexicans who work with programs that assist seniors and low-income households are in Washington, D.C., to sound alarm bells about the impact of budget cuts now being debated in Congress.

The proposed U.S. House budget makes significant cuts to job training, energy assistance, Head Start, senior housing and nutrition programs. ECHO, Inc. is a anti-hunger organization in northern New Mexico that would be hit. Executive Director Sara Kaynor says they provide a supplemental food box each month to meet the nutritional needs of young children, pregnant women and new mothers, and seniors.

"It really is a double bang for the buck, in that people get nutritious food and still have available dollars for other necessities, whether it's rent or utilities, or doctor bills."

She says the program could be facing as much as an 11 percent cut in federal funding, which would have a particularly large impact in New Mexico due to the long distances that must be traveled to reach numerous rural locations. New Mexico service providers are attending a meeting in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the family advocacy group Wider Opportunities for Women.

ECHO also runs a housing program in San Juan County that helps working families afford a home. That program could also lose funding, which would have a ripple effect in the community, adds Kaynor.

"We know that we're pretty much the main work for about 65 subcontractors, so the economic benefit for the entire community is really great."

Leading economist Mark Zandi of Moody's projects a loss of 700,000 jobs nationwide if the most recent House spending bill for FY 2011 (HR1) is enacted.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM