As conversations progress in Washington DC to reduce deficits, streamline health care, and mend a faltering economy, we are reminded daily here at Vermont CARES of the effect sweeping decisions have locally. 

For example, on this snowy day, one needs only look out the window to the falling snow – and falling temperatures – to connect in a visceral and emotional way to DC’s decisions.  The Administration’s budget decision to cut home heating assistance in FY2012 would harm people who cannot afford heat, and we in Vermont know this all too well.  Of the roughly 150 families affected by HIV/AIDS we serve each year, more than two in three need help paying heat bills.  Our Vermont Congressional delegation has opposed theseand other cuts, but we need all our allies across the country to speak in a united voice that cuts to those most in need cannot build a budget that is balanced fiscally and ethically.

Vermont’s Peter Welch also voted last week against drastic cuts to this current federal budget, which included cuts to Planned Parenthood, mental health programs, the CDC, and many other programs that effect our clients each day.  We applaud this stance, since many programs slated for these cuts provide tangible benefits for our stakeholders *and* ultimately save resources in the long-term.

Upcoming debates about health care reform – both in the Vermont Statehouse and in DC – are going to provide amazing opportunities to focus affirmatively on our neighbors without insurance or routine medical care. 

As Vermont CARES gears up our policy positions this legislative session, we keep our focus on policy that directs benefit to those we serve every day, through HIV prevention work, through care and housing programs, and through broad community education.  Add your voice to many others, and return here for more perspectives on how law and procedure affect health and community strength overall.