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Catholic Relief Services ‘alarmed’ by proposed U.S. foreign aid cuts

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Catholic Relief Services workers help to distribute humanitarian aid materials to Gazan civilians in March 2024. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2024 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on Monday criticized this year’s U.S. State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which cuts foreign aid by 11% compared with last year. 

The official charitable arm of the U.S. Catholic bishops, CRS has in recent years pushed for more government funds, which make up a substantial portion of the organization’s budget. 

“The substantial reductions to critical humanitarian and development accounts, in some cases by roughly 25%, would have dire consequences for millions of families facing hunger, humanitarian crises, and infectious diseases,” said Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization, and advocacy at CRS, in a July 1 statement.

“We will collaborate with Congress on a bipartisan bill that robustly funds humanitarian and development programming and provides a courageous response to the challenges facing our global family. The U.S. has long been a force for good around the world, and CRS is committed to supporting the passage of a bill that reflects that history.”

CRS received over $928 million in funding from government grants in 2022, making up a large proportion of the organization’s total revenue of more than $1.4 billion, according to tax documents. CRS says it currently provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries without regard to race, religion, or nationality.

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the 2025 bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved last month, includes $3.3 billion in funding for Israel and prioritizes border security and measures to combat China’s influence. It also maintains “all long-standing pro-life protections” and supports “religious freedom programs abroad and religious freedom protections for faith-based organizations delivering foreign aid.”

At the same time, the budget eliminates funding for several programs entirely, including the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund and Contributions to the Inter-American Development Ban. 

The appropriations bill also deprioritizes many climate-focused initiatives by prohibiting funds for the Green Climate Fund and Clean Technology Fund. All told, the proposed budget represents a 19% reduction from the president’s budget. 

O’Keefe noted that the bill retains “strong funding levels” for “a select few” humanitarian priorities, such as addressing nutrition needs and combating malaria. However, the bill “fails to invest in climate adaptation,” despite the “moral, economic, and security benefits of enhancing resilience to severe weather shocks like droughts, flooding, and extreme heat waves.”

As recently as 2021, CRS praised the Biden administration’s proposed budget for its focus on fighting poverty worldwide. That 2022 request included $1 billion in U.S. foreign assistance for fighting infectious diseases around the globe as well as $2.5 billion for international climate programs.

In 2019, CRS criticized then-President Trump’s proposal to cut foreign aid by nearly 25%.


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