The Impact of Cutting Title II Funding
The United States has given emergency food assistance to those in need during natural disasters, conflicts and acute economic difficulties, but recent congressional budget cuts reduce the impact of emergency funding by limiting both short- and long-term assistance programs. At a time when the need for food assistance is greater than ever, Title II programs should be fully-funded to improve the lasting success of the U.S. and recipient countries.
The Need for Emergency Food Assistance is Rising
Due to a 400 percent increase in natural disasters in the past twenty years, a rise from 17.4 to 27.5 million displaced people since 1997, and steadily growing food prices, there are an estimated 100 million people in need of emergency food assistance every year.
Despite this increasing need, U.S. budget cuts have decreased the funding for Title II, which is the primary account providing emergency food assistance in the wake of natural disasters and conflict around the globe. The reduction from $1.84 billion to $1.46 billion since 2010 can negatively impact vulnerable populations in a variety of ways, making each recurring crisis deeper and more costly to address.
What Are the Consequences of Cutting Title II Funding?
Though the U.S. normally relies on extra budget grants for emergencies, recent budget shortages limit the likelihood of supplementary funding. With reduced funding, organizations like the UN World Food Program must prioritize their food assistance programs and decrease preventative measures, interfering with people's resilience and ability to withstand future crises.
What Happens When the Need Exceeds the Resources?
Reducing emergency food assistance ultimately reinforces the cycle of dependency, poverty and recurring crisis. How?
- Programs provide less food to fewer people
Even if the number of beneficiaries does not change after a budget cut, the amount and duration of food assistance is often reduced. In severe situations, beneficiaries of food assistance may stop receiving assistance altogether.
- Programs prioritize lifesaving assistance, at the cost of other projects
When funding is insufficient, food assistance programs shift their focus to immediate interventions, forced to turn away from long-term recovery efforts. Long-term efforts, including agricultural development projects and school feeding programs, are critical in establishing country self-sufficiency and bringing vulnerable populations out of poverty and chronic food insecurity.
- Vulnerable populations resort to negative coping mechanisms
When assistance programs are reduced, the previous beneficiaries often adapt their own coping mechanisms to ensure their short-term survival, but unintentionally jeopardize their long-term survival. These mechanisms include selling productive assets (land, cattle, tools), reducing expenditure on quality food, limiting investment in education and health, borrowing money and living on credit, and returning to subsistence farming.
Why should the U.S. fully fund Title II food assistance programs?
- An estimated $280 billion of economic losses in the 1990s could have been prevented by just $40 billion in preventative measures.
- Just $1 invested in prevention efforts saves $4 to $7 in recovery.
- Food assistance in countries in conflict restores and maintains stability in volatile regions, including those that are of key national security concern for the U.S.
- Resilience programs have been shown to be cost-effective, as they allow communities to move away from foreign assistance altogether.
While cuts to Title II will bring small, temporary cost-savings, they will ultimately undermine investments that build sustainability and promote long-term global development and food security. Continued support for Title II programs is necessary to maintain U.S. humanitarian and economic leadership worldwide, and foster the self-sufficiency of other nations to end global hunger.