Media CenterProposal to Eliminate Food Aid and Cut Humanitarian and Development Assistance in FY19 Budget is Short-sighted and Life-threatening

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


WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2018 -- Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic Church, is deeply concerned about the drastic cuts to international humanitarian, development, and life-saving global health assistance proposed in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. The Administration’s request proposes reducing funding for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by more than one-third overall; and completely eliminates food assistance.

“The United States is a generous nation that has led the global community in responding to catastrophe and providing opportunity to the poor and the marginalized,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ vice president for government relations and advocacy. “But even beyond the fundamental humanitarian and moral imperative to fund foreign aid, poverty-reducing international assistance is in the best interest of our country. Deep and disproportionate cuts to development aid and diplomacy will only exacerbate the problems we face today and leave a vacuum for new crises to fester tomorrow.”

The budget proposal significantly underfunds humanitarian response which, if enacted, would have life or death consequences for millions of people. 

  • In Fiscal Year 2017, the U.S. spent over $2.5 billion more on humanitarian response than this budget proposes, at a time when the UN predicts a 5 percent increase in humanitarian need. 
  • Globally, more than 136 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 700,000 people who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August of 2017. 

“Humanitarian assistance provides life-saving aid; we cannot cut now, when 30 million people face famine,” said O’Keefe. 

The budget also proposes to cut development food security spending by over $1 billion, eliminating altogether food aid programs and cutting in half the implementation of the Global Food Security Act.  “At a time when hunger is increasing around the world, now is not the time to cut back on helping communities grow more food," O’Keefe said.  “Underfunding this area will only lead to more destabilizing food emergencies in the future.”

The Administration likewise proposes to reduce by nearly half other critical development activities in the areas of microfinance, water, education, anti-trafficking efforts, and more.  “This proposal is short-sighted,” emphasized O’Keefe, “an ounce of development activities is worth a proverbial pound of humanitarian cure. Access to clean water, for example, keeps communities healthier.”

CRS is urging Congress to maintain the bipartisan consensus to protect funding for international assistance in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 to at least Fiscal Year 2017 enacted levels. 

“This funding is urgently needed to feed the hungry, provide shelter for those in need, support refugees, combat the impact of climate shocks, and to coordinate responses to global health outbreaks,” O’Keefe emphasized.

Every year during Lent, which starts Wednesday, CRS supports tens of thousands of Catholics who sacrifice from their pocketbooks to help those in need overseas through CRS Rice Bowl.  “Americans’ Rice Bowl sacrifices remind us of their generosity year in and year out,” O’Keefe said.  “For many who receive assistance, it is the difference between a nutritious meal and going hungry.”


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.

Tags: Advocacy


Kim Pozniak

Director of Communications

Kim Pozniak
February 12, 2018

Based in Baltimore, MD

As the Director of Communications, Kim oversees the communications and social media teams working with journalists and the media to connect them with engaging stories about relief and development programs that are making a tangible difference in people’s lives around the world.

Her previous work at CRS includes handling emergency...More