Pell Grants, which help students pay college expenses could also be cut, Wilson said.
"Spending cuts risk job growth. A lot of state and local governments are already laying off workers," he said. "Making major changes to Medicare and Medicaid would also be devastating to the middle class. But the poor are especially vulnerable.
"Some spending that helps people, like food stamps, also drives the economy," he added. Our leaders should consider things like cutting back on military engagements."
The letter from the 30 groups points out that past debt-cutting efforts, such as those under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, did not decrease aid to the poor.
"The 1990, 1993 and 1997 deficit reduction packages -- which improved the Earned Income Tax Credit, strengthened the SNAP [food stamp] program or created the Children's Health Insurance Program -- show that reducing poverty and expanding effective low-income assistance programs is fully consistent with deficit reduction," the letter states.
Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said, "We applaud Sen. [Jay] Rockefeller for holding firm against cuts to Medicaid and other social programs. We encourage Sen. [Joe] Manchin to resist supporting debt-ceiling proposals that would cut these programs. They benefit the least among us."
The letter from the 30 groups adds, "The United States already has higher levels of poverty and inequality than most other Western nations.
"We agree that we must address future deficits and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal course," it states. "But that need not -- and should not -- entail increasing poverty and hardship or inequality."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.