Packages From Home faces cuts

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PHOENIX -- It's no secret Arizona is in serious financial trouble. According to our state treasurer, in order to save our budget, cuts must be made.

But one group says funding is being taken away from the wrong group of people.

3 On Your Side has been investigating the matter for a while now.

The state treasurer says unless lawmakers and the governor do something, Arizona will be out of money by next month. To get a grip on the state budget, certain things have to be "sliced and diced."

But one of the things that may get cut affects our military overseas and that's not sitting well with some people.

"It really is a morale booster," Joshua Heller said.

Heller is out of the Arizona National Guard now, but he says when he was serving in Iraq, getting goodies from the organization called Packages From Home is what kept him and the other troops motivated.

"I know it sounds clich, but it's like Christmas or your birthday," Heller said.

And that's why Kathleen Lewis started the nonprofit organization.

"My son, Christian, is my hero," Lewis said.

Knowing her son and other military personnel would need items like hygiene products and snacks, Lewis says Packages From Home was an instant success.

"It grew from something very small that was in my garage to sending over 250,000 packages," she said.

To help mail the packages, the state of Arizona assisted with postage.

For instance, a food box costs about $12 and to send a hygiene box, it costs $15. And remember, 2,000 boxes are shipped every month.

"We rely on that, absolutely, it's very important to us and I think it's important to the citizens of Arizona to know they are supporting the military themselves," Lewis said.

But now, Lewis says money for postage has stopped all because Arizona is in a financial crisis.

The governor has ordered cuts from the National Guard and those cuts include postage as well as other items.

Lewis says she understands things are tight, but claims the governor was prohibited from making cuts to the military, like cuts to postage.

"The problem is they're special line items and it's against the law for her to do that," Lewis said.

We tried to talking to the governor recently about the cuts, but her office referred us to Maj. Paul Aguirre with the Arizona National Guard.

Aguirre tells 3 On Your Side that funds for postage are not "cut" by the governor. Instead, he says they're frozen, along with other state spending until lawmakers can figure out what to cut permanently.

"Let's call time out right now and suspend funding outside of things that are critical to the day-to-day operations like payroll and overhead, and that's simply all we have done at this point," Aguirre said.

So, for now, while Packages From Home is supposed to be flying food and hygiene products overseas, only half of the items will ever make it over to our men and women.

And, again, according to the spokesman for the Arizona National Guard it's not the governor who froze the money. It was the Department of Emergency & Military Affairs.