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NH Churches Have No Faith in Budget

June 27, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - The new state budget set to go into effect July 1 will include about $230 million in cuts to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Just how these cuts will affect people and their communities is the focus of a new project by the New Hampshire Council of Churches, a group representing 10 different denominations.

David Lamarre-Vincent, the council's executive director, says the idea is to get as many houses of worship in the state as possible to document how, and if, the level of need changes in the communities they serve.

"It's been said throughout the session that unmet need can be picked up by churches and nonprofits. We don't believe that's true and we would like to see what the consequences of such severe cuts are."

Lamarre-Vincent says churches already help the needy in a variety of ways, including such essentials as food, clothing, and fuel assistance, as well as volunteers who provide home visits.

"And there is no excess capacity left for us to meet the state's obligation to care for those who are most vulnerable and needy within our state."

Jeff McLynch, the executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, says that, all told, the new budget will reduce spending for a variety of central services by more than $450 million over the next two years.

"It may be that these sort of changes help to bring the state's bottom line into balance in the near term, but in the near term we may see costs shifted on to individuals, families, school districts, communities generally. And over the longer run, we could see higher costs for the state."

David Lamarre-Vincent says his council of churches will collect information monthly via the Internet and present their findings to legislators when the lawmakers reconvene in January 2012.

Faithful Budget Accountability Project information is at www.nhchurches.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH