Proposed Block Grant Cuts Impact Residents

Just two months after extending a tax cut for the wealthy, President Barack Obama slashed Community Service Block Grants (CSBG) — a key source of federal funding that is used to help low-income families in Everett–by 50 percent.

The cut by Obama sent shock waves through Everett non-profits who rely heavily on CSBGs to fund widely successful programs like fuel assistance, job training programs, and other essential programs for low-income families and the elderly.

“Cuts to these programs could be devastating to low-income citizens in this area,” said Everett’s Director of Human Services Carolyn Lightburn. “Those funds provide real assistance to individuals that are homeless, facing homelessness or are having trouble heating their homes or buying food.”

The Office of Human Services helps Everett residents with many types of assistance. The main purpose of the office is information and referral including food stamps, fuel assistance, evictions, utility termination, Mass Health, Elderly Transportation, food pantries, shelters and housing questions, domestic violence and transitional assistance.

Many clients of this department have already reported running out of fuel assistance and Lightburn said housing assistance requests are up 30 percent this year.

“It’s been a harsh winter and many of our clients have reported that they ran out of funds back in December,” said Lightburn. “We have shown there is a need for these crucial programs and cuts to CSBG could wipeout some of these programs that rely heavily on block grant funding.”

With the economy the way it is and people forced to already do more with less, Lightburn worries about the impact a 50 percent slash to CSBGs.

“It will definitely make it more difficult for the low-income families and elderly here trying to stay in their homes or heat their homes or put food on their tables,” said Lightburn. “We hope that the House and Senate do not adopt the cuts and we will continue to write letters and fight against them.”

Many Everett community service non-profits currently receive CSBG funding that primarily supports the activities of all its programs.

Some fear the proposed cuts to CSBG funding are an attempt by Obama to placate Republicans in the now Republican-run House who have attacked the President’s administration on spending.

Right now Everett non-profits are helping thousands of low-income families survive a bitter Northeast winter with Fuel Assistance programs, providing child care services for hundreds of children and their families, and beginning recruitment for youth and adults for the agency’s work education program.

U.S. Senator John Kerry said Everett non-profits and community action group staffs are leading local efforts in Massachusetts that help struggling families, kids, and senior citizens keep their heads above water.

“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,” said 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,” he added Kerry.

Kerry’s colleague in the House, U.S. Congressman Ed Markey said the government must tackle our huge deficit, but not at the expense of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“These programs aren’t just lines in a budget – they’re lifelines for our most vulnerable, and they must be preserved,” said 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.”

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