U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, spoke on the Senate floor to reiterate his call for Congress to provide the Department of Health and Human Services the funding it needs to get the humanitarian crisis at the southern border under control.
As a result of the record increase in unaccompanied children coming across the border this year, the funding Congress provided for the whole fiscal year is expected to run out possibly as soon as the end of the month.
The following are excerpts from Blunt’s remarks.
“Madam President, I want to talk a little bit about the border and not the important need to secure the border, which I’m for, but I want to talk about the humanitarian crisis that we have seen occurring at the border, and, frankly, Madam President, the Senate and the House, the Congress, have been watching that occur for too long. It’s been several weeks now since the administration has notified the Congress that the money that was allocated for what would have been a traditional set of challenges at the border is about to be spent, that there’s no money left on some of these issues that we have to deal with at the border in a particular way.
“Just last month about 130,000 people came to the border. … But of that 130,000 people that came in May, 11,507 of them were children without families. … About 30 percent of them are under 12 and about 70 percent of them are between 12 and 18.
“Usually within 72 hours of those children showing up at the border by themselves, the Department of Homeland Security transfers them to the Department of Health and Human Services, a much better position to take care of them than they otherwise would be. The Department of Health and Human Services enters into agreements with Lutheran charities and Catholic charities, and other groups, almost always not for profit, that will provide shelter on a clearly understood basis. This is something that HHS knows the kind of housing that these children are going in, provides shelter, provides medical care, other services, like education, provided by these groups that contract with us, and they also make an effort – part of their goal is to find a safe and appropriate place for these kids to be as soon as possible.
“The problem is that Health and Human Services is running out of space and they are also running out of money. In April, Secretary Azar, the head of Health and Human Services, came to Congress and said, ‘I just want to give you a warning, we’re going to be out of money on this current pace by sometime in June’. And, by the way, Madam President, we’re now in June, and the Congress has not stepped up and done what’s necessary to take care of these kids.
“The department’s being forced to cut back on some of the things that they have tried to provide for children that have come in to our care through certainly no fault of ours and maybe not much fault of theirs, redirecting money from programs like refugee programs that are designed to help people who come truly as refugees. That money is now being used for unaccompanied children. Remember, Health and Human Services is legally required to take care of these children but also legally required not to spend money that they don’t have.
“So Health and Human Services has asked for money in an emergency funding situation to take care of this. Congress should take this request seriously and pass this funding before there’s no money from any source to take care of even the basic needs that unaccompanied kids in our country need to be taken care of.
“Let’s deal with this immediate humanitarian crisis, let’s deal with it the way that the people we work for expect us to deal with it, and let’s get this humanitarian crisis taken care of before we see a human catastrophe occur and I hope we can do it, and I hope we can do it quickly.”