Today, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Malden), dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, sent a letter to President Obama signed by 11 members of the delegation expressing deep concern about funding cuts in Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) that will be included in the administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 2012. The letter states: "While we understand that the improvement of our nation's budgetary outlook will require difficult choices, we believe that cutting CSBGs, which are the source of funding for community action programs, will hinder, rather than help, our nation's economic recovery."
Community action programs are private, non-profit human service and advocacy organizations that were established by Congress and the President over 30 years ago to fight poverty by opening the doors to self-sufficiency. These programs are the federal government's only comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable citizens and helping struggling Americans get the services they need to achieve economic security. Covering 1,065 agencies in 99 percent of U.S. counties, community action programs last year provided critical supports to 20.7 million Americans facing an array of challenges ranging from extreme poverty, disability, and lack of employment. Nationally, the CSBG budget is approximately $622 million with Massachusetts receiving $17 million that is designated to 24 community action programs.
"These programs aren't just lines in a budget -- they're lifelines for our most vulnerable, and they must be preserved," said Rep. Markey. "The poor, the disabled, the elderly, and children all depend on community action programs. We must not balance the budget on the backs of disadvantaged citizens in our communities, and I will fight to protect these critical programs."
"These local efforts in Massachusetts are helping struggling families, kids, and senior citizens keep their heads above water," said Senator John Kerry. "I'm ready to make tough budget choices and real cuts, but I don't think community action programs are the place to slash just as we're pulling the country out of the economic ditch."
"Community Action Programs provide vital assistance to seniors, working families, and children, and play a crucial role in our economic recovery," said Rep. John F. Tierney. "As we consider necessary cuts to the federal budget, we must be careful not to take the easy way out and simply reduce programs that assist the communities who are not often heard in Washington. Our working families and children in our local schools deserve better. Community organizations across our district will be meeting with me immediately to discuss this matter."
"We must tackle our huge deficit, but not at the expense of some of our most vulnerable citizens," said Rep. Michael Capuano. "This cut is just too steep and will result in real pain for people struggling to make ends meet."
"As a majority of Massachusetts' residents know, community action programs provide invaluable resources and support to our communities," said Rep. William R. Keating. "The residents of our South Shore and Cape are fortunate to be serviced by three of these programs: the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, Quincy Community Action Programs and South Shore Community Action Council. They offer homeownership and foreclosure counseling, homelessness prevention plans, emergency food banks and shelters, educational and job training and child services, among countless other initiatives. At a time when our country's unemployment rate is high and people are still struggling, these are not the type of programs we should be cutting right now."
"Community Service Block Grants play a critical role in maintaining the vibrancy and health of our cities in the Merrimack Valley," said Rep. Niki Tsongas. "These grants allow community action agencies to provide crucial services such as employment, education, income management, housing, and emergency services. While our budget crisis clearly necessitates certain spending reductions, we should not make deep cuts to programs like these on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens."
"Cutting $350 million out of essential services for the poorest of our elderly and our children, while continuing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to subsidize the military budgets of our wealthy allies is as distorted an example of sensible public policy as could be imagined," said Rep. Barney Frank.
"Community Service Block Grant funds make a real difference in people's lives. Cutting funding during these difficult economic times would be detrimental to communities across the country," said Rep. Stephen Lynch. "While we need to take a hard look at federal spending, tens of thousands of families rely on these funds just in Massachusetts alone. I join with my colleagues in opposing cutting funding for such a vital program."
"I strongly believe that cutting funding in Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) will negatively impact our economic recovery and the lives of those who depend on the services these grants fund. Community Action programs are a lifeline for those hardest hit by the recession," said Rep. John Olver. "Cutting this lifeline will leave the most vulnerable members of our community without critically needed services."
"It's vital that we maintain support for Community Development Block Grant programs that provide such valuable services," said Rep. Jim McGovern. "The Worcester Community Action Council, for example, is a lifeline for thousands of residents in Central Massachusetts."
"During these challenging economic times, funding for the CSBG program becomes even more important for our local cities and towns," said Rep. Richard E. Neal. "Without these critical resources, our state's most needy individuals become even more vulnerable. While we all acknowledge that spending cuts must be made, I would urge you to protect this funding which is the source of community action programs."
In Massachusetts, community action programs serve over 250,000 families and over 600,000 individuals, employ over 4,000 people and work with over 3,500 volunteers. The programs provide services such as GED and ESL education, job training, Head Start, homelessness prevention programs, and senior services such as the Foster Grandparent Program and Retired Senior Volunteer Program, among many.
A full copy of the letter can be found here:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20502
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our deep concern about funding cuts in the Community Block Grants (CSBG) that will be included in the administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 2012. While we understand that the improvement of our nation's budgetary outlook will require difficult choices, we believe that cutting CSBGs, which are the source of funding for community action programs, will hinder, rather than help, our nation's economic recovery.
Community action programs are the federal government's only comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable citizens and helping struggling Americans get the services they need to achieve economic security. Covering 1,065 agencies in 99 percent of U.S. countries, community action programs last year provided critical supports such as employment, education and housing to 20.7 million Americans facing an array of enormous challenges ranging from extreme poverty, disability, and lack of employment. Community action programs created and retained 18,432 jobs ove rht epast two years, ranking 8th our of approximately 200 Recovery Act federal programs.
In Massachusetts, we have seen firsthand the incredible positive impact of community action programs such as the Tri-City Community Action Program (Tri-CAP) in Malden, South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in Framingham, the Worcester Community Action Council (WCAC), and Action for Community Development (ABCD) in Boston, a widely respected community servies program founded in 1962. ABCD, for example, makes a difference every day for 80,000 individuals and their families in the Commonwealth every year. ABCD has a network of hundreds of neighborhood offices, Head Start centers, family planning sites, and fuel assistance sites throughout Boston, helping residents get back on theri feet, find jobs and pay taxes. Moreover, every CSGB dollar is multiplied 20 times over in private and pulic funds raised to support community programs and meet needs. As winter storms continue to bear down on our state and the New England region, ABCD is helping more than 26,000 low-income families survive a bitter winter with its fuel assistance program, it is launching an Earned Income Tax Credit campaign that will help close to 10,000 working poor families get access to up to $6,00 each in tax credits, it is providing Head Start and child care services for 2,400 children and their families, and it is beginning recruitment for 5,000 inner city youth for the agency's summer jobs and education program.
As you noted in your State of the Union Address, "I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford citizens." We respectfully submit, Mr. President, that cuts to CSGB funding would sever the indispensable lifelines that are relied upon each day by our country's most vulnerable. While we must oppose any cuts to CSBG funding, we stand ready to work with you as we confront the challenges facing our nation in the future.
Edward J. Markey
John F. Kerry
Richard E. Neal
John W. Olver
James P. McGovern
Michael E. Capuano
Stephen F. Lynch