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USCCB News Release Archives

 
11-032
February 15, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Put the Poor First in Federal Budget Decisions Say Catholic Bishops, CRS President


More than three hundred Catholic leaders visit Capitol Hill February 15 with this message.

WASHINGTON (February 15, 2011)— Expressing concern over proposed federal budget cuts in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution, the heads of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committees and the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sent letters to Congress on February 14, reminding elected officials that “decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies — they are significant moral choices.”
           
On the international side, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president Catholic Relief Services, said in a joint letter that “[e]specially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources.” According to an analysis by USCCB and CRS, the proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall.
           
“Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Hubbard and Hackett in the letter. “It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.”
           
The Church leaders said international assistance is an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance security throughout the world. The letter warned that many of the proposed funding reductions will disrupt existing programs mid-stream, undermining their impact, the capacity of local partners, and ultimately the moral credibility of United States. The letter also welcomed the restoration of the Mexico City Policy that prohibits funding groups that perform or promote abortion and the denial of funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China, but noted that the Continuing Resolution also makes dramatic cuts that are life-threatening.
           
In a separate letter, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on Congress to place the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and other vulnerable people first, in setting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution, saying “[a] moral measure of the budget is how it treats “the least of these” at all stages of life from conception until natural death.”
           
Citing the call for major reductions in non-security related programs that serve the poor and vulnerable, Bishop Blaire said, “In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.”
           
Bishop Blaire called for “reasonable solutions and strategies to address the federal deficit that will ensure stability and security for future generations” while advocating for “a balanced approach that is just and works to preserve the well-being of poor and vulnerable people.” He also said, “decisions should be made that not only reflect a commitment to national and long term fiscal security but demonstrate justice, compassion and fairness. Our plea, then, is simple: Put the poor and vulnerable first as you consider how to spend limited federal resources.”
           
Among the main concerns highlighted by Bishop Blaire in his letter are the proposed cuts to funding for Community Health Centers, affordable housing programs, job training programs, and critical refugee funding. The letter also welcomed the bill’s retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia.
           
More than 300 Catholic leaders, in Washington for the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 13-16), will take the bishops’ message to Capitol Hill on February 15 in a day of visits to their U.S. representatives and senators lifting up the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
           
Full text of both letters follows.

February 14, 2011

House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the relief and development agency of the Catholic Church in the United States, urge you to preserve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance. Especially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources. 

The proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall.  Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable.  It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.

We need to give particular priority to programs that protect the poor, who are the least able to cope with budget cuts.  Priority poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance accounts in the FY 2011 President’s request total $20.25 billion, only 0.6% of the federal budget and only one-third of all U.S. international assistance to the developing world.  (See chart for detailed list of poverty-focused accounts supported by USCCB and CRS.)

The Church views international assistance as an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance security throughout the world.  Foreign assistance is not simply an optional commitment; it is a moral responsibility to assist “the least of these.”  For over 50 years, Catholic Relief Services has partnered with the United States Government to implement some of these priority programs.  CRS knows from experience how effectively they can save lives and help the poor achieve their human potential. 

These priority programs support a wide range of life-saving and dignity-preserving activities, including:  agricultural assistance to poor farmers; drugs for people living with HIV and tuberculosis; cost-effective vaccines for preventable diseases; assistance to orphans and vulnerable children; mosquito nets to prevent malaria; food aid for famines, emergencies, and development; emergency health care, shelter, and reconstruction in disaster-devastated places like Haiti; peacekeepers to protect innocent civilians such as in Sudan and the Congo; assistance to migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or persecution; and debt relief for poor nations. 

Cuts at the level being considered will result in the loss of innocent lives: persons with HIV no longer able to access life-saving anti-retroviral medications; refugees and victims of natural disaster succumbing to starvation and hunger-related illnesses; and poor families unable to grow what they need to survive.  These funding reductions will also disrupt existing programs mid-stream, which undermines the impact of the program, the capacity of local partners, and ultimately the moral credibility of United States.

Instead of these proposed cuts, we urge Congress to find resources elsewhere, in programs that do not serve the poorest persons and communities.  Even within accounts not on the attached list, however, great care to protect the poor must be taken.  For example, in the Economic Support Fund, assistance for Sudan and Haiti and other poverty-focused programs must be retained.  In addition, the civilian capacity at the U.S. Agency for International Development requires the full support necessary to effectively carry out these programs.

We do strongly approve of this bill’s restoration of the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion, and its denial of funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.  Unfortunately, the Continuing Resolution also makes dramatic cuts that are life-threatening.

In times of fiscal restraint, shared sacrifice demands that the entire budget be examined, including defense.  As the bishops of the United States said in 2011, “Maintaining a strong military is only one component of our national security. A much broader, long-term understanding of security is needed. In a world where one-fifth of the population survives on less than $1 per day, where some twenty countries are involved in major armed conflict, and where poverty, corruption, and repressive regimes bring untold suffering to millions of people, we simply cannot remain indifferent. … Our nation must join with others in addressing policies and problems that provide fertile ground in which terrorism can thrive.”

At a minimum, we urge you to restore funding to the poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance accounts on the attached list back to the FY 2011 request level.  USCCB and CRS are committed to working with the Congress to meet the U.S. imperative to preserve poverty-focused international assistance to improve the lives of those in greatest need.  Our commitment to human life and dignity demands no less.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard   
Bishop of Albany
Chairman,  
Committee on International Justice and Peace ?   
Ken Hackett
President
Catholic Relief Services

---
February 14, 2011

United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we call on Congress to place the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and other vulnerable people first, in setting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution. Decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies -- they are significant moral choices. Meeting essential human needs is a compelling ethical and fiscal priority. The health, stability and well being of our nation depend on these decisions. A moral measure of the budget is how it treats “the least of these” at all stages of life from conception until natural death.

Current proposals call for drastic reductions in non-security related programs that serve the poor and vulnerable. In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

We support reasonable solutions and strategies to address the federal deficit that will ensure stability and security for future generations. However, we advocate for a balanced approach that is just and works to preserve the well-being of poor and vulnerable people. Congress should adopt a spending plan for the remainder of FY 2011 that ensures adequate funding for programs that offer opportunity and help to the poor, children, seniors, and people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons. Congress should help to alleviate the burden of the vulnerable, not make it worse.

The need to protect life is clear in decisions on whether to use public funds to attack innocent human life- and in this regard we welcome the bill’s retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference offers examples of possible considerations that reflect some of our concerns with the proposed plan:

  • The USCCB calls on Congress to work to ensure adequate health care coverage to those in need. The proposed $1 billion cut to Community Health Centers will deny health care to nearly ten million poor and vulnerable people including mothers and children at risk. These centers are often the only access to health care for tens of millions of people in our country.

  • The bishops affirm their long-standing position that safe, affordable and decent housing is a human right. At a time of record foreclosures, increasing homelessness and rising housing costs, the proposed cut of $2.3 billion to affordable housing programs is not justifiable in light of the housing crisis for low and moderate income families.
  • Reducing job training programs by a proposed $1.75 billion does not make sense at a time of high unemployment and low job creation. Further, this will prolong the economic pain of the very people seeking adequate training to re-enter the job market. Many of those most affected by job loss are less-skilled workers who need additional training and skill development to re-enter the workforce. Congress must ensure funding for and support efforts to strengthen and improve these quality training programs with successful outcomes.

  • We are deeply concerned by cuts in FY 2011 refugee funding that the bill would make.  More specifically, the bill would cut available funding in FY 2011 for domestic refugee resettlement programs operated by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) by $77 million, or 10.5 percent relative to FY 2010 appropriations.  And it would cut funding for refugee admissions and overseas refugee assistance programs in the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account that is operated by the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) by $827 million, or 44.8 percent, relative to FY 2010 appropriations.  USCCB believes that cuts to these accounts, which have been historically under-funded, would have a devastating effect on refugees, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa recipients, victims of torture and trafficking, unaccompanied alien children, and other vulnerable populations served by PRM, ORR, and the communities across the country that welcome these populations. 

  • As you consider the FY 2011 Continuing Appropriations Bill, we urge you, at a minimum, to maintain the funding for the MRA and ORR accounts at the FY 2010 total enacted level. To do otherwise would have a devastating impact on those displaced persons around the world who are almost entirely dependent on the international system for life-saving assistance, as well as to those who we have offered the life-saving assistance of admission to the United States.

The spending choices of Congress have clear moral and human dimensions; they reflect our values as a people. We are not policy makers, but pastors and teachers. But, we remind Congress that the poor and vulnerable have a priority claim on our limited, although still substantive, financial resources. In efforts to pass a responsible spending resolution for the remainder of FY 2011, decisions should be made that not only reflect a commitment to national and long term fiscal security but demonstrate justice, compassion and fairness. Our plea, then, is simple: Put the poor and vulnerable first as you consider how to spend limited federal resources.

Sincerely,
                       
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire                                           
Diocese of Stockton                                                  
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice               
and Human Development

----
Keywords: budget, health care, housing, foreign aid, Congress, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard,  Committee on International Justice and Peace, Ken Hackett, CRS, Catholic Relief Services

# # # # #

11-032
February 15, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Put the Poor First in Federal Budget Decisions Say Catholic Bishops, CRS President


More than three hundred Catholic leaders visit Capitol Hill February 15 with this message.

WASHINGTON (February 15, 2011)— Expressing concern over proposed federal budget cuts in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution, the heads of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committees and the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sent letters to Congress on February 14, reminding elected officials that “decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies — they are significant moral choices.”
           
On the international side, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president Catholic Relief Services, said in a joint letter that “[e]specially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources.” According to an analysis by USCCB and CRS, the proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall.
           
“Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Hubbard and Hackett in the letter. “It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.”
           
The Church leaders said international assistance is an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance security throughout the world. The letter warned that many of the proposed funding reductions will disrupt existing programs mid-stream, undermining their impact, the capacity of local partners, and ultimately the moral credibility of United States. The letter also welcomed the restoration of the Mexico City Policy that prohibits funding groups that perform or promote abortion and the denial of funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China, but noted that the Continuing Resolution also makes dramatic cuts that are life-threatening.
           
In a separate letter, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on Congress to place the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and other vulnerable people first, in setting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution, saying “[a] moral measure of the budget is how it treats “the least of these” at all stages of life from conception until natural death.”
           
Citing the call for major reductions in non-security related programs that serve the poor and vulnerable, Bishop Blaire said, “In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.”
           
Bishop Blaire called for “reasonable solutions and strategies to address the federal deficit that will ensure stability and security for future generations” while advocating for “a balanced approach that is just and works to preserve the well-being of poor and vulnerable people.” He also said, “decisions should be made that not only reflect a commitment to national and long term fiscal security but demonstrate justice, compassion and fairness. Our plea, then, is simple: Put the poor and vulnerable first as you consider how to spend limited federal resources.”
           
Among the main concerns highlighted by Bishop Blaire in his letter are the proposed cuts to funding for Community Health Centers, affordable housing programs, job training programs, and critical refugee funding. The letter also welcomed the bill’s retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia.
           
More than 300 Catholic leaders, in Washington for the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 13-16), will take the bishops’ message to Capitol Hill on February 15 in a day of visits to their U.S. representatives and senators lifting up the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
           
Full text of both letters follows.

February 14, 2011

House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the relief and development agency of the Catholic Church in the United States, urge you to preserve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance. Especially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources. 

The proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall.  Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable.  It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.

We need to give particular priority to programs that protect the poor, who are the least able to cope with budget cuts.  Priority poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance accounts in the FY 2011 President’s request total $20.25 billion, only 0.6% of the federal budget and only one-third of all U.S. international assistance to the developing world.  (See chart for detailed list of poverty-focused accounts supported by USCCB and CRS.)

The Church views international assistance as an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance security throughout the world.  Foreign assistance is not simply an optional commitment; it is a moral responsibility to assist “the least of these.”  For over 50 years, Catholic Relief Services has partnered with the United States Government to implement some of these priority programs.  CRS knows from experience how effectively they can save lives and help the poor achieve their human potential. 

These priority programs support a wide range of life-saving and dignity-preserving activities, including:  agricultural assistance to poor farmers; drugs for people living with HIV and tuberculosis; cost-effective vaccines for preventable diseases; assistance to orphans and vulnerable children; mosquito nets to prevent malaria; food aid for famines, emergencies, and development; emergency health care, shelter, and reconstruction in disaster-devastated places like Haiti; peacekeepers to protect innocent civilians such as in Sudan and the Congo; assistance to migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or persecution; and debt relief for poor nations. 

Cuts at the level being considered will result in the loss of innocent lives: persons with HIV no longer able to access life-saving anti-retroviral medications; refugees and victims of natural disaster succumbing to starvation and hunger-related illnesses; and poor families unable to grow what they need to survive.  These funding reductions will also disrupt existing programs mid-stream, which undermines the impact of the program, the capacity of local partners, and ultimately the moral credibility of United States.

Instead of these proposed cuts, we urge Congress to find resources elsewhere, in programs that do not serve the poorest persons and communities.  Even within accounts not on the attached list, however, great care to protect the poor must be taken.  For example, in the Economic Support Fund, assistance for Sudan and Haiti and other poverty-focused programs must be retained.  In addition, the civilian capacity at the U.S. Agency for International Development requires the full support necessary to effectively carry out these programs.

We do strongly approve of this bill’s restoration of the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion, and its denial of funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.  Unfortunately, the Continuing Resolution also makes dramatic cuts that are life-threatening.

In times of fiscal restraint, shared sacrifice demands that the entire budget be examined, including defense.  As the bishops of the United States said in 2011, “Maintaining a strong military is only one component of our national security. A much broader, long-term understanding of security is needed. In a world where one-fifth of the population survives on less than $1 per day, where some twenty countries are involved in major armed conflict, and where poverty, corruption, and repressive regimes bring untold suffering to millions of people, we simply cannot remain indifferent. … Our nation must join with others in addressing policies and problems that provide fertile ground in which terrorism can thrive.”

At a minimum, we urge you to restore funding to the poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance accounts on the attached list back to the FY 2011 request level.  USCCB and CRS are committed to working with the Congress to meet the U.S. imperative to preserve poverty-focused international assistance to improve the lives of those in greatest need.  Our commitment to human life and dignity demands no less.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard   
Bishop of Albany
Chairman,  
Committee on International Justice and Peace ?   
Ken Hackett
President
Catholic Relief Services

---
February 14, 2011

United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we call on Congress to place the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and other vulnerable people first, in setting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution. Decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies -- they are significant moral choices. Meeting essential human needs is a compelling ethical and fiscal priority. The health, stability and well being of our nation depend on these decisions. A moral measure of the budget is how it treats “the least of these” at all stages of life from conception until natural death.

Current proposals call for drastic reductions in non-security related programs that serve the poor and vulnerable. In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

We support reasonable solutions and strategies to address the federal deficit that will ensure stability and security for future generations. However, we advocate for a balanced approach that is just and works to preserve the well-being of poor and vulnerable people. Congress should adopt a spending plan for the remainder of FY 2011 that ensures adequate funding for programs that offer opportunity and help to the poor, children, seniors, and people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons. Congress should help to alleviate the burden of the vulnerable, not make it worse.

The need to protect life is clear in decisions on whether to use public funds to attack innocent human life- and in this regard we welcome the bill’s retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference offers examples of possible considerations that reflect some of our concerns with the proposed plan:

  • The USCCB calls on Congress to work to ensure adequate health care coverage to those in need. The proposed $1 billion cut to Community Health Centers will deny health care to nearly ten million poor and vulnerable people including mothers and children at risk. These centers are often the only access to health care for tens of millions of people in our country.

  • The bishops affirm their long-standing position that safe, affordable and decent housing is a human right. At a time of record foreclosures, increasing homelessness and rising housing costs, the proposed cut of $2.3 billion to affordable housing programs is not justifiable in light of the housing crisis for low and moderate income families.
  • Reducing job training programs by a proposed $1.75 billion does not make sense at a time of high unemployment and low job creation. Further, this will prolong the economic pain of the very people seeking adequate training to re-enter the job market. Many of those most affected by job loss are less-skilled workers who need additional training and skill development to re-enter the workforce. Congress must ensure funding for and support efforts to strengthen and improve these quality training programs with successful outcomes.

  • We are deeply concerned by cuts in FY 2011 refugee funding that the bill would make.  More specifically, the bill would cut available funding in FY 2011 for domestic refugee resettlement programs operated by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) by $77 million, or 10.5 percent relative to FY 2010 appropriations.  And it would cut funding for refugee admissions and overseas refugee assistance programs in the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account that is operated by the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) by $827 million, or 44.8 percent, relative to FY 2010 appropriations.  USCCB believes that cuts to these accounts, which have been historically under-funded, would have a devastating effect on refugees, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa recipients, victims of torture and trafficking, unaccompanied alien children, and other vulnerable populations served by PRM, ORR, and the communities across the country that welcome these populations. 

  • As you consider the FY 2011 Continuing Appropriations Bill, we urge you, at a minimum, to maintain the funding for the MRA and ORR accounts at the FY 2010 total enacted level. To do otherwise would have a devastating impact on those displaced persons around the world who are almost entirely dependent on the international system for life-saving assistance, as well as to those who we have offered the life-saving assistance of admission to the United States.

The spending choices of Congress have clear moral and human dimensions; they reflect our values as a people. We are not policy makers, but pastors and teachers. But, we remind Congress that the poor and vulnerable have a priority claim on our limited, although still substantive, financial resources. In efforts to pass a responsible spending resolution for the remainder of FY 2011, decisions should be made that not only reflect a commitment to national and long term fiscal security but demonstrate justice, compassion and fairness. Our plea, then, is simple: Put the poor and vulnerable first as you consider how to spend limited federal resources.

Sincerely,
                       
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire                                           
Diocese of Stockton                                                  
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice               
and Human Development

----
Keywords: budget, health care, housing, foreign aid, Congress, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard,  Committee on International Justice and Peace, Ken Hackett, CRS, Catholic Relief Services

# # # # #



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