Thursday, February 17, 2011

Federal Budget Updates and Actions

Dollar symbolApologies for not writing about this sooner, but the Policy Department has been in the midst of attending a national conference and preparing for a local hearing on earned sick time.  While we were busy, a budget proposal for the rest of the fiscal year (from March 4 until September 30) was announced, as well as President Obama's proposed budget for 2012.

Note: Congressional Staffers are also looking for your thoughts on HR 1.  A new service, POPVOX, is among organizations collecting statements.  To learn more about POPVOX, please visit https://www.popvox.com/home. 

Also, The New York Times has put together a graphic representation of the federal budget proposal, showing the various cuts and increases to spending.  You can check it out on their website.

Here is a roundup of budget information that we have gathered from our friends and colleagues. Tell us about more in the comments!

Adult Education
AmeriCorps/Corporation for National and Community Service
Food and Nutrition Programs
Head Start
Health and Human Services Programs
Healthcare
Higher Education
Housing
LIHEAP
Mental Health
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Workforce Development

Adult Education
At the federal level, adult education may be in line for a small increase under President Obama's 2012 budget. According to PAACE, the budget includes $635.0 million for Adult Education State Grants, ($6.8 million more than in the 2011 Continuing Resolution), $23.3 million for Adult Education National Leadership Activities ($12 million more than in the 2011 Continuing Resolution), and $17.2 million for Workforce and Community Transition Training for Incarcerated Individuals State Grants. However, while there is an overall funding increase for adult literacy, states will receive approximately 10% less in state grant funding for adult literacy services.  Pennsylvania is likely to lose additional funding due to a population decline.

Within the state grant amount, $75 million will be available for integrated English literacy and civics education services to immigrants and other limited English proficient populations. $50.8 million is also available for a new Workforce Innovation Fund, which will make grants to projects that innovate and validate strategies for improving service delivery and outcomes to WIA beneficiaries.

Within Adult Education National Leadership Activities, the new funding would be split between an impact evaluation of college bridge programs that help adult learners move from adult basic education to postsecondary education/training and the development of a technology infrastructure for adult learners and educators.

AmeriCorps/Corporation for National and Community Service
According to AmeriCorps Alums, the budget bill currently in the House of Representatives would eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that engage Americans in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps volunteers work across the country (including here at PathWays PA) to respond to national disasters, build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, and increase civic participation and service.  While President Obama still has AmeriCorps funding in his 2012 budget, AmeriCorps Alums asks that people call their Congressperson this week to support the program

Food and Nutrition Programs
While many of the programs that assist nutrition are entitlement programs and cannot be cut, FRAC reports on a number of proposed funding decreases and funding elimination in the House 2011 Continuing Resolution proposal.  Under the resolution, Women Infants and Children (WIC) funding is set to be cut by $747.2 million, an amount that may be adequate but leaves no room for expected price increases as well as increased demand.  WIC provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.  The Commodity Supplemental Food Program also faces a cut of $20 million, which will need to be absorbed over a seven month period and will likely result in large caseload reductions.  TEFAP (distribution and storage of food) will remain at the same funding level, but FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter funding will be cut by 50% to $100 million. Nutrition Programs Administration is set for a $3 million funding cut.

Meanwhile, the following programs will be zeroed out:
  • Congressional Hunger Center
  • Hunger Free Communities grants
  • TEFAP infrastructure grants
  • Community gardens

Head Start
According to the Pennsylvania Head Start Association, the proposed 2011 Continuing Resolutions budget cut to Head Start would result in 1000 staff members in Pennsylvania losing their jobs and 7000 children and families dropped from Head Start programs. The Association further reports that for every $1 invested in Head Start, the US receives $7 in "increased earnings, employment, family stability, and decreased welfare dependency, crime costs, grade repetition, and special education."

Health and Human Services Programs
A 121 page document explaining how the President's 2012 budget proposal would affect HHS programs is available at http://www.hhs.gov/about/FY2012budget/fy2012bib.pdf.

Healthcare
Maternity Care Coalition reports that the 2011 Continuing Resolution would make a number of health related cuts.  Maternal Child Health Block Grants, which support children with special needs, newborn screening and genetic services, lead poisoning and injury prevention and health and safety promotion, faces a $50 million cut. Community Health Centers could lose $1 billion, including $480 million directed to children's health services. The centers provide primary health care in communities without physicians or other medical centers that serve the uninsured.  Additionally, even though the fiscal year is five months old, the Family Planning (Title X) and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Discretionary Grant stand to lose all of their regular FY 2011 appropriations.  For talking points and ways to contact your legislators, please read the MCC Newsletter.

Higher Education
According to The United States Student Association, the 2011 Continuing Resolution and the President's 2012 budget both present cuts to higher education funding.  The Continuing Resolution cuts the maximum amount of a Pell Grant by $875, while also cutting funding to Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Furthermore, the Resolution eliminates funding for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) and federal support for tribal colleges.

In the President's 2012 budget, Pell grants remain at the same funding level, but will no longer be made available for summer school and government subsidies on the interest rates graduate students pay on their loans while still in school.

The United States Student Association offers the following actions:

Housing
Under the 2011 Continuing Resolution, housing spending would be cut by $61 billion according to The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.  These cuts would include decreases in funding to public housing, CDBG, housing counseling, Section 202, Section 811, and to a lesser degree HOME.

While the House Resolution will be voted on this week, the Housing Alliance suggests scheduling meetings with Senators next week when they are in their home districts to ask for their support on housing issues.  Detailed action steps are available on their website.

LIHEAP
According to the United Way of Southeastern Delaware County blog, the President's 2012 Budget includes a 66% reduction in Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding.  According to LIHEAP advocates, this could leave 3.5 million households without the energy assistance they need.

Mental Health
On Friday, February 18, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare will be hosting a special live event on their blog to discuss behavioral health funding and take questions.  Those interested can visit MentalHealthcareReform.org to leave their questions, and return on Feb. 18th at 2:00 pm to hear answers or to ask additional questions you might have.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
According to the National Community Tax Coalition, the President's 2012 budget includes a $4 million cut to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Programs (VITA), bringing total funding down from $12 million to $8 million.  VITA services are critical to low-income families who otherwise may not get their taxes prepared or may use paid preparers, thereby losing hundreds of dollars in unneeded fees and loans.  If you host a VITA site, please complete this brief, anonymous survey about the demand that you have been seeing at tax sites.

Workforce Development
Workforce development funding is under serious threat in the 2011 Continuing Resolution and in the 2012 budget proposal.  President Obama’s budget proposes an 8% reduction in workforce development funds, while the House majority has proposed a 100% reduction in funding for workforce development.

Workforce development funding is critical in supporting job seekers with training opportunities and placement, including CareerLink support services and Individual Training Accounts for education, while also providing employers with valuable hiring and retention services. Please take a moment to call your Congressperson or send this letter in an e-mail or via fax (preferably on letterhead) urging them to support continued workforce development funding.  You can find contact information for your legislators at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml.

The House will conclude their budget debate in only a couple of days, so it is essential that this information is shared with your Representative TODAY.

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