Media CenterCatholic Relief Services to Congress: "Protect U.S. Foreign Aid"

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Tom Zolper
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(410) 951- 7110


BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, March 12, 2019 – With at least 132 million people worldwide suffering from armed conflict, intensifying weather and other emergencies, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) urged Congress to reject the administration’s proposed cuts to U.S. foreign aid programs.

In testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Bill O’Keefe, CRS executive vice president for Mission, Mobilization, and Advocacy, called for modest increases in spending—rather than the 24 percent proposed reduction in the president’s budget request—to help desperate people coping with violence, intensifying droughts and other crises.

Now would be the worst time for the United States to become uncaring. 

O’Keefe told subcommittee members that U.S. humanitarian leadership is critical to meet global needs. Over 68 million people in the world are currently displaced from their homes as a result of natural or manmade disasters. This includes 3 million Venezuelans who have fled their country. Experts predict 2 million more could flee the South American country by the end of the calendar year.

While the U.S. has been generous in its response to recent global emergencies, O’Keefe noted that the U.S. has conspicuously withdrawn all aid for the Palestinian people at a time of great need. 

“Of the 1.9 million people in Gaza, 53 percent live in poverty and more than half–approximately 1.24 million–need international food assistance to survive. The cessation of U.S. assistance has increased hopelessness and unnecessarily risks more regional instability,” O’Keefe said.  

In his written testimony, O’Keefe also called for spending amounts for specific foreign aid accounts, including:

  • $1.56 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria
  • $4.5 billion for International Disaster Assistance
  • $3.6 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance
  • $3.1 billion for Development Assistance

In the president’s FY 2020 budget request announced yesterday, Monday March 11, the administration proposed slashing foreign aid by 24 percent, a drastic reduction that would abandon millions of the world’s most poor. The cuts would undermine dramatic progress in global poverty reduction over the past two decades, disproportionately affecting vulnerable and marginalized people.

Last year, Congress rejected similar cuts proposed by the administration. CRS urges the 116th Congress to uphold its bipartisan commitment to foreign aid.

“U.S. foreign assistance is a moral and practical imperative. Poverty not only causes unnecessary suffering, but also breeds instability. Aid empowers local leadership, builds local capacity and supports a community on its journey to self-reliance,” O’Keefe said.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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