Media CenterCRS Opposes Proposed Cuts to Foreign Aid Budget; Elimination of Vital Anti-Poverty Accounts

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(443) 955- 7125


WASHINGTON, DC, March 16, 2017 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is deeply troubled by the proposed draconian cuts to poverty-focused foreign assistance in the administration’s budget request. At a time of both increased need in the world and genuine progress against poverty, such cuts to the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development would have devastating and long-lasting effects, both around the world and here in the United States.

“The proposed reduction in foreign aid, by almost a third, would set us back decades,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at CRS.

“Lives depend on it,” he continued. “And our country’s future depends on it as well. We can either help the poor and vulnerable develop and govern themselves – as we have been doing successfully – or we will be forced to confront these problems when they arrive on our shores – whether in the form of disease, violence or migration.”

The proposed cuts come at a time when more people have been forced from their homes by war, poverty and climate change than ever before. Some 65 million people have been forcibly displaced– including more than 13 million Syrians, almost 5 million refugees who have fled to other countries.

“If we don’t invest in education, water and sanitation, and sustainable agriculture, then humanitarian crises will only increase,” said CRS president Sean Callahan.

Millions in East Africa are also vulnerable right now as South Sudan is facing a famine and two other countries are on the brink of a catastrophic hunger crisis. 

“We are a very blessed nation. When we see people in need, we help them. It’s part of being American,” said Jerome Farrell, CRS South Sudan country representative in charge of a large, U.S. government-funded food aid program there. “We help people get back on their feet. The way you do that is with foreign aid.”

O’Keefe agreed. “This proposed skinny budget is way too skinny to meet the increasing needs that left unaddressed will cause greater displacement and insecurity,” he said. “The 1 percent of the budget that goes to poverty-focused foreign aid is one the best investments the U.S. makes.”

“Foreign aid works,” he added, noting that it was instrumental in keeping the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa from spreading to our country and has helped to nearly eliminate malaria in various parts of the world. “It would be unconscionable to reverse these successes, which a cut in foreign aid would most certainly do.”

U.S.-government funded programs overseas strengthen families and communities, and support local health and social systems. Over the decades, these investments have helped many developing countries become full-fledged members of the world economy.

“In the fight against extremism and violence, the U.S. needs stable societies to be our allies.

Any cuts to foreign aid jeopardizes U.S. security, creating a vacuum in fragile states that can be exploited by our nation’s enemies, leading to the need for much more costly – in money and lives – military intervention,” O’Keefe said.

CRS Board Chairman Bishop Gregory J. Mansour joined more than 100 faith leaders urging Congressional leadership to protect international lifesaving humanitarian assistance and poverty-focused development programs.

“At a time when we’re especially security conscious, the International Affairs Budget is crucial to demonstrating our values to the world, building friendships with other nations, and lowering security risks around the world,” the letter states. “As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility […] to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to […] vital programs.”

“Americans are generous,” O’Keefe said. “This very small part of the federal budget is tax dollars well spent.  

Read the signed letter to Congressional Leadership.


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, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
March 16, 2017

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More