The Effect of the 2011 Federal Fiscal Year Continuing Resolution on Central Missouri Community Action
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA), based in Columbia, serves eight counties that comprise Central Missouri: Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage counties. CMCA receives federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds through the State of Missouri.
The President has signed another Continuing Resolution to extend the 2011 federal budget through April 8. This CR is yet another stopgap measure that leaves thousands of organizations across the country and hundreds of thousands of employees in the dark about their future. The 2011 federal budget year started last October and organizations like CMCA which rely on federal funding to provide services and invest in their local economy are concerned about seeing budget cuts which are retroactive to last October. The latest Continuing Resolution (CR) is the sixth since October and the third since the House of Representatives passed a 2011 budget which dramatically decreases domestic discretionary spending (one of the smallest sections of the federal budget and easiest to cut). Continuing Resolutions passed most recently were on Feb. 19, March 4 and now again for the 2010-2011 Federal Fiscal Year which started last October. Congress now has until April 8 to pass a budget for a fiscal year which will be more than six months old at that point. Passage of the House version of the budget in its present form would mean CMCA’s Community Services Block Grant Program (in the sixth month of the program year) would have its funding suspended immediately.
In addition, CMCA’s Foster Grandparent Program funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service is also targeted for an immediate end. This program allows seniors on a fixed, low income to provide emotional and behavioral support to children that may otherwise be at risk in a variety of settings including day care centers, state-supported facilities, schools and at home. The inter-generational nature of the program provides a benefit to the children by enhancing social skills and educational attainment and has also shown to benefit the health outcomes of the senior volunteer. A stipend is available to support these seniors to enhance their economic security and allow them to continue to live independently in the community. Foster Grandparents has a longstanding tradition in Central Missouri and recently celebrated its 45th anniversary. There are 85 seniors throughout Central Missouri that participate in this program. These seniors will experience an economic and social detriment if the program is eliminated.
The federal Head Start Program would also be reduced in size and scope as a result of the Continuing Resolution, affecting CMCA’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs. This comprehensive early childhood education program offers prenatal support, infant/toddler education, school readiness, family development services, medical and dental screenings and referrals, nutritional support and emotional health resources to children of families that experience economic insecurity. In addition, Head Start staff work with families in pursuit of self-reliance through goal-setting and case management. This program is available in 22 facilities throughout Central Missouri and also offers home-based options. It is designed to be a support to families so that work and educational goals may be pursued while the children are receiving the educational experiences to prepare them for kindergarten.
Workforce Investment Act programs would also be cut out by the House-passed budget. CMCA is a contractor for the Central Region Workforce Investment Board (C-WIB) and provides employment assistance, job preparation, GED assistance and tuition assistance for vocational and post-secondary education. In 2010, C-WIB traffic reports indicate that 158,000 mid-Missourians came through one of the Career Centers CMCA manages in Mexico, Jefferson City and Columbia. Darin Preis, Executive Director for CMCA, says, “It is unconscionable to me that Congress would eliminate this program at a time when unemployment is at all time highs and more people are economically unstable than they have been in decades.”
Further cuts are planned to eliminate CMCA’s Weatherization program and significantly reduce the energy assistance program. These programs alleviate the disproportionate burden that energy costs have on people with low incomes during peak seasons throughout the year, through prevention and financial assistance. Weatherization provides permanent solutions to reduce energy consumption by installing cost-effective, energy efficient materials into the home. It also assures a home’s safety through assessments of gas combustion appliances and carbon monoxide.
Randy Cole, Energy Efficiency Coordinator for CMCA, says, “If the Weatherization program is eliminated, low income families will continue to struggle to balance paying for high energy costs. The Weatherization program reduces the reliance these families may have on public support to pay their utility bills through Energy Assistance. When you look at cuts to both programs, these families may risk having no heating or cooling source altogether.”
CMCA utilizes CSBG funding in a variety of ways including the ongoing operation of eight Family Resource Centers. Available in each county, these centers serve as the point of entry for Central Missourian’s experiencing economic insecurity. They support and enhance existing programs, establish and/or participate in community partnerships in each county to better coordinate the flow of services to people in need of assistance, leverage additional resources and establish new projects. Assistance is available for emergency and non-emergency needs.
CMCA’s Family Resource Centers served 14,241 households for emergency and non-emergency needs in 2010. This included families who have never needed services before and who were devastated by the recent economic recession.
During the CSBG 2009-2010 program year, special programs were established utilizing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. These programs include an oral health access initiative in Callaway County, adult education programs in Howard and Osage counties, initiation of a microlending project that will offer loans for small business start-up throughout Central Missouri, Volunteer and Family Development Coordination throughout the service area to enhance organizational and professional capacity, as well as Community Empowerment Collaborations in each county that address local barriers to economic security.
If funding for CSBG ends, CMCA would have to close many of its Family Resource Centers (established in 1965) and eliminate employment for approximately 35 employees. This action would have a very devastating effect on the agency’s delivery system and have a negative economic impact (payroll, occupancy costs, money spent in communities) and social impact (loss of services, loss of dealing with already existing case management situations) in Central Missouri.
These facilities provide vitally needed services for the low-income population of CMCA’s eight county area for all programs and provide referral services to a whole host of related agencies, organizations and businesses. Loss of the CSBG Family Resource Centers and its community projects would impact the many collaborative efforts the Centers have undertaken this year and in previous years to help strengthen local communities across Central Missouri. The impact of the loss would be felt in such areas as health, unemployment, housing, education and social services. There would be fewer resources in the rural counties that are a part of the CMCA network and fewer programs for families who need help to meet basic needs. It will be very difficult to tell people their network of support services is gone and they will have to do more with less and become self-reliant overnight or face the consequences.
“This is a very challenging time for community action agencies," Preis said, "and the participants in our programs. It is now up to the House and Senate to agree on the best and fairest way to reduce deficit spending in the current Federal Fiscal Year. As our economy begins to show signs of recovery, I hope they will consider the immediate and devastating effect this withdrawal of federal investment will have on our community.”
To find out how to support the sustainability of CMCA, access advocacy tools and find out additional information please contact Preis at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (573) 443-8706 or visit www.friendsofcmca.org.
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