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Hearing of the House Budget Committee - Social Services Block Grant Program


Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a senior member of the House Budget Committee, discussed the impact that cutting the Social Services Block Grant program would have on local efforts in our communities.

States are also making cutbacks. If these funds are not available--it is these abused and neglected children who will pay the price for it. There are some 39 states that rely on these funds for child abuse and neglect prevention.

I also think that the big emphasis with this block grant in many states is on independence--not only the independence of the states being able to select how they want to use the resources, but also the independence of the individuals, whether it is a senior who gets one of those rural Meals on Wheels or it is an individual with disabilities who needs additional assistance to be able to live independently of institutionalized care.

We all know as well in our communities that we are called upon, regardless of political affiliation or philosophy, to get behind the many worthy local efforts happening to support our most vulnerable neighbors. As important as those efforts are, so many of those groups are relying on federal funds to meet some part of their mission.

One group that contacted us is Easter Seals that does wonderful work with children with disabilities. Easter Seal affiliates throughout the country say that to provide quality services to support the independence of people with disabilities, they rely upon the Social Services Block Grant program. I think this is true whether it is the National Foster Care Coalition, the Arc, Women's Law Center, American Public Health Services Association, Child Welfare League--one organization after another realizes the impact if this program is eliminated.

There may be better ways to do it--I suggested to my colleagues who were critical of the broad unaccountable discretion given to the states with reference to this block grant program, that if it was too broad, we ought to put additional standards in. But it looks to me like at a time of great budget difficulty, most states are making effective use of these funds. I think it would be a serious mistake to eliminate them at this time while at the same time claiming that the solution to our national problems lies in block granting more programs.

Indeed, one would think from looking at the block grant effort today for some programs and the elimination of this block grant program that has been in effect since Ronald Reagan's day with bipartisan support, that the real approach is to first block grant and then to cut--like repeal and replace. And the effect on so many families and so many individuals is a very harsh and un-American one that we don't have to do. There are other ways for all Americans to get together and support the budget restraint we need without putting so much of it on the most vulnerable citizens.

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