Durbin Visits Food Bank, Says Programs Keeping Families Above Water Must be Protected in Deficit Reduction Negotiations

Notes Demand at Eastern Illinois Foodbank Has Doubled Since 2005

[URBANA, IL] – With the economic recovery lagging and more than half of American families living paycheck to paycheck, preserving social safety net programs – like food assistance, unemployment benefits and job re-training programs – is more critical than ever, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.


“The struggling economy has put a strain on family budgets throughout Illinois, and more and more people are turning to their local food pantry to put meals on the table. At a time when


13 percent of Illinois residents live in poverty and the unemployment rate in Champaign is nearly 9 percent, we need to protect and maintain the important services that are helping families make ends meet and get back on their feet,” Durbin said.


Food banks across Illinois have seen a 50 percent increase in food assistance requests during the last two years, and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank has increased food distribution by 24 percent during the same period, Durbin noted.


“When you ask people across America what their number one concern is, it is no surprise the answer is not the deficit—it’s the jobs and the economy.  Families are struggling. There are at least five job seekers for every available job in America. Nearly half of Americans are financially fragile.  That is the state of the economy and it’s the state of thinking of most American families—that as hard as they work, they keep falling behind. Therein lays our challenge in Washington. While the deficit is truly a national problem, we can’t overlook the need to help support the families that have been hit hardest by the recession, create jobs and turn this economy around,” Durbin said.


The recession that knocked so many American families back on their heels had an equal effect on the U.S. economy and the federal budget, Durbin said.  The Senator just spent 18 months working in Washington on fiscal reform, starting with his role on the Bowles-Simpson Commission, then on the bi-partisan “Gang of Six” and finally as a member of Senate leadership who participated in the debt ceiling negotiations at the White House. 


“We are deeper in debt as a nation now than we’ve ever been - going back to World War II. We borrow 40 cents for every dollar we spend in Washington on everything from the defense of this nation to food stamps. That is simply unsustainable,” Durbin said. “If we’re going to address this deficit crisis in a serious manner, we need to cooperate in a bipartisan fashion and look at all aspects of the budget honestly.  We cannot afford to continue having these dead-lock and high-noon scenarios played out month after month. It’s not good for our weak economic recovery, and it is going to hurt us when it comes to our standing in the global economy,” Durbin said.


“In order to reduce the deficit in a responsible way and get our nation back on stable financial footing, it is absolutely essential that everything—from increasing revenue to reforming entitlements and cutting spending—is considered,” Durbin said.


“The spending cuts that have been made by Congress this year have all come from non-defense domestic discretionary spending, just 12 percent of the budget, which represents funding for job retraining programs, food assistance programs, Pell Grants, the National Institute of Health, and the transportation bill, among many other things. As we address our nation’s debt, we shouldn't take a hatchet to the federal budget.  We need to take care that we don’t cut too deeply, and that we protect important programs that are keeping struggling families from sinking into poverty and those that will pay dividends in terms of our economic recovery,” Durbin said.  “We should not slash vital anti-hunger programs for American families at the time they’re relying on those programs most.”


As one of 18 members of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, also known as the Bowles-Simpson Commission, Durbin voted in favor of the package of recommendations to cut the deficit and rein in federal spending, which included revenue increases, entitlement reforms, and spending cuts.  From January to July 2011, Durbin worked with a bipartisan group of Senators, known as the “Gang of Six,” to craft a proposal to cut the nation’s debt by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. The framework issued by the Gang of Six late last month was endorsed by a bi-partisan group of 36 Senators.