Lawmakers seek $1.5 million increase in Holocaust survivor aid funding

The lawmakers seek a $1.5 million increase over last year

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) speaks during a press conference on new legislation to support Holocaust education nationwide at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

More than 100 House lawmakers are calling for a boost in funding for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, which provides support for aging Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as elderly victims of other traumatic events.

A letter sent by 111 bipartisan members to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies subcommittee last week, and obtained by Jewish Insider, calls for $10 million in funding for the program in 2024, up from $8.5 million for this year. The Biden administration had also proposed holding funding at $8.5 million for next year. 

The request also follows multiple years of efforts from the subcommittee itself to boost funding to $10 million; the subcommittee supported that funding level in its 2022 and 2023 draft appropriations bills.

“This is a timely and necessary program that, since its creation, has established a track record of success beyond its initial expectations, all the while in a cost-effective manner,” the letter reads. “In addition, it responds to an immediate bipartisan public policy priority to assist Holocaust survivors as well as address the emerging needs of other diverse aging populations impacted by trauma.”

The letter highlights both the struggles faced by Holocaust survivors as well as the successes the program has seen in developing new approaches to care.

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Troy Balderson (R-OH) organized the letter; they led a similar effort last April, again seeking $10 million for the program. That letter garnered 215 signatories.

“The inhuman treatment that Holocaust survivors in my own community and across America endured eclipses almost the bounds of what we may expect in trauma and psychological services, so their support needs of this aging population will always be a high priority for me,“ Wasserman Schultz told JI. “This funding makes life easier and more dignified for these aging Holocaust survivors and their families, but it also provides support for other aging populations impacted by traumatic or extreme events, such as military veterans, first responders and natural disaster victims. Special care is what they all need, and this funding will help do that.”

The program is run in cooperation with the Jewish Federations of North America, which is also supporting the $10 million funding program.

“Jewish Federations cherish our community of survivors and work every day to help them live with dignity as they age,” Elana Broitman, the senior vice president for public affairs at JFNA, told JI. “The Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program is critical to ensure that [aging] survivors can live in their own homes and communities, and will assist other aging adults who have been exposed to traumatic events, such as veterans, first responders, and victims of childhood and domestic abuse.”

The lawmakers’ funding request came ahead of a letter from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to President Joe Biden, sent Tuesday, in which McCarthy proposed cutting non-defense spending “to pre-inflationary levels” and limiting annual growth as preconditions for a vote to raise the debt limit and avoid a default.

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