CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thirty religious, health, community and political groups want the five members of West Virginia's congressional delegation to save federal programs that help low-income Americans.
The groups sent letters late last week asking them to "protect programs for low-income families and individuals and make sure that deficit reduction is achieved in a way that does not increase poverty."
Last week, President Obama suggested future financial restrictions might be considered for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
"Cuts to programs that help low-income people meet their basic needs or provide them with opportunity to obtain decent education and employment would inevitably increase poverty and hardship," the letter states.
Those cuts are likely to have a major impact on West Virginia, whose median household income is $37,423, compared with a national average of more than $50,000. The Mountain State's poverty rate is also significantly above the national average.
If Congress cuts programs that help poorer people, the burden of helping them may fall back on individual states, forcing them to raise taxes.
Religious groups signing the letter included: Catholic Charities of West Virginia, the West Virginia Council of Churches, West Virginia Catholic Conference, Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Department of Social Ministries and Partnership of African American Churches.
Others included: the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the NAACP's Charleston branch, West Virginia Nurses Association, Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, West Virginia Psychological Association, Communication Workers of America, Planned Parenthood and the National Association of Social Workers' state chapter.
Rick Wilson, area director for the American Friends Service Committee's Economic Justice Project, said he was impressed with the "diversity of groups that weighed in on these issues -- groups that are religious, secular and professional."