Stop Obama’s cuts to block grants that let community action help the poor

Fuel Assistance. Head Start. Summer jobs for youth. Education. Career Development. After-school programs. Child care. GED programs. Affordable housing. Homelessness prevention. Housing court advocacy. Food pantries. Access to tax credits. Senior programs. And so much more. Comprehensive, integrated services that enable poor families to get on their feet, into affordable housing and jobs, enrolled in career development and education programs, building a future as active, tax-paying citizens and responsible parents.

That is just a glimpse of what community action gives to our families, neighborhoods, cities and the nation. That is what ABCD and 1,065 programs like it across America have provided for 45-plus years, through programs that had their birth in the War on Poverty and were reincarnated in 1981 as the Community Services Block Grant or CSBG.

Now the Obama administration is planning to do away with CSBG – to eliminate funding for these vital community action programs that provide the above programs and also offer a base for creative development of grassroots initiatives that leverage significant private and public funding and build strong collaborations with a wide range of organizations and institutions to meet important needs.

In Dorchester, with 92,000 residents, 15 percent of the population or almost 14,000 people live below the federal poverty level of $22,050 in annual income for a family of four. The ABCD Dorchester Neighborhood Service Center provides these at-risk families with a host of programs that help meet basic needs and offer stepping-stones out of poverty: fuel assistance, summer jobs, Mass Health applications, holiday toy distribution, Earned Income Tax Credit assistance, Food Stamp applications, holiday meal services and more. The agency works with the Department of Justice’s “Weed & Seed” Initiative – a strategy that brings law enforcement representatives together with neighborhood residents to reduce crime. Its After-School & Summer Enrichment program supports working parents by providing safe, affordable child care coupled with academic support and creative programming
Eliminating CSBG means all of this would be lost to Dorchester. And communities across America would experience the same devastating eradication of vital programs and services.

These ill-conceived cuts would place the most vulnerable in society – children, families, seniors – at terrible risk. They would dismantle a national network of community-based, antipoverty programs that give people concrete services, real opportunities and all-important hope for the future.

To bring the budget into balance and grow the economy at a time when poverty is rising due to the harsh recession that continues to haunt low-income communities, the administration would be far better off increasing their investment in these programs, rather than cutting them. For a relatively small federal outlay, CSBG-funded programs pay off many times over as they get people working and paying taxes, prevent expensive emergency shelter placements and keep low-income community residents off the unemployment and welfare rolls, at huge savings to taxpayers.

In Boston, more than 80,000 individuals and families pass through ABCD doors every year. Right now ABCD is helping about 26,000 families survive this bitter winter through the fuel assistance program, launching the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program that offers working poor families up to $6,516 in tax credits, providing Head Start and child care services for 2,400 children and their families and beginning recruitment for 5,000 low-income youth for the ABCD summer jobs program.

Please help us keep these programs and services and opportunities that so many people in need depend upon every day. You can make a difference by writing, e-mailing or tweeting the Obama administration.

Write to The President, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20502.

Tweet Tell@BarackObama that #CommunityAction works!
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Thank you! We need your help to save community action!

John J. Drew is President/CEO of Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (ABCD), the Boston-area community action and antipoverty agency.