October 06, 2023

Picket Fence Media: Congress Must Keep Its Promise to Fully Fund the Government; Our Servicemembers Count on It

Last weekend, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass a bipartisan funding bill to keep our government open until Nov. 17, after facing significant hurdles that threatened a shutdown. 

We’re not out of the woods yet. We have a little over a month to reach a bipartisan agreement to fully fund the government for Fiscal Year 2024 and avert another shutdown threat. Our servicemembers are counting on us to get this done.

Too many of our men and women in uniform are living paycheck-to-paycheck. According to the Department of Defense, a quarter of active-duty servicemembers have experienced food insecurity. Junior enlisted servicemembers are at the highest risk. Nearly half of junior enlisted spouses have experienced food insecurity, as well. Despite serving in the best funded military in the world, junior servicemembers aren’t earning enough to make ends meet.

I have heard repeatedly from junior enlisted servicemembers at Camp Pendleton who are worried about making ends meet. A government shutdown would only have made the problem worse, because servicemembers would not have received their paychecks, making it harder for them to put food on the table.

This situation is unacceptable. The men and women who serve our country should never have to worry about their next meal. As a precaution, I co-sponsored the bipartisan Pay our Military Act to ensure our servicemembers continue to receive their pay in the event of a shutdown. 

Congress now has until mid-November to pass a bipartisan funding bill that ensures our government stays open, our men and women in uniform get paid, and services that millions of Americans rely upon are not disrupted. The only way for that to happen is for Democrats and Republicans to once again work together and reach a bipartisan consensus on government funding levels that do not make drastic cuts to critical programs such as those that provide food assistance.

Recently, I introduced bipartisan legislation, the Military Dependents School Meal Eligibility Act, to help servicemembers and their families access food assistance programs. Currently, the basic allowance for housing (BAH) that servicemembers receive is counted as income and, therefore, disqualifies many military families from food assistance. My bill would remove the BAH from counting as income for the free and reduced-price school meal program, expanding access to school meals for military families. 

There is still much more to do to improve the financial and nutritional well-being of servicemembers. In the long run, passing my bipartisan bill would ensure military families at Camp Pendleton and bases across the country can focus on fulfilling their mission, rather than on finding their next meal.

In the near term, the best thing we can do to help servicemembers and their families is to prevent a shutdown by passing a full government funding package before the November 17 deadline.

The consequences of a government shutdown are too severe for Congress to play partisan political games.

Let’s fund the government, keep it open, and ensure servicemembers and their families always have enough to eat.

By:  Rep. Mike Levin
Source: Picket Fence Media