State and federal budget cuts leave those in need behind

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Connecticut’s Community Action Agencies  are facing state and federal budget cuts unlike anything we’ve seen in our 50+ year history of serving low-income and working poor individuals and families. Last month over 200 CAA network staff, board members, and customers attended Community Action Day at the State Capitol to make their voices heard against these cuts, which will severely impact our ability to effectively serve Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents.

Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing a 20 percent reduction in Human Services Infrastructure (HSI)-Community Action Program (CAP) funding, and President Trump’s budget proposal eliminates critical funding for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and the Meals on Wheels program.

These are Community Action Agencies’ core operational funds and the backbone of program funds for antipoverty agencies. Additionally, the $2.7 million in HSI-CAP state funds are matched by the federal government, so the loss of these funds would actually mean a potential loss of $5.4 million.

If these cuts go through, they will be devastating to our agencies and those we serve. Connecticut’s Network is the state’s safety net. We cannot sacrifice vital programs and services that help struggling individuals, children, families, single parents, disabled, and seniors in every city and town. These critical, basic services like food, early childhood care and education, home heating assistance and energy conservation measures, employment and training, housing, and elderly nutrition services provide a hand up for hundreds of thousands of our residents. Just last year, we served more than 357,500 people in need across the state. Over 99,000 of them were working one, two or three low-paying jobs without benefits; more than 36,000 were seniors on fixed incomes; and, almost 20,000 were on disability.

Connecticut’s economy is stuck and has not recovered from the Great Recession. Many of our residents who had jobs and were considered ‘middle class’ have lost their jobs, and are now asking for our help. Yet while the demand for services increases, our funding has not.

For nearly a decade, our state funding has continued to decrease. With the proposed 20 percent reduction in the HSI-CAP budget line and the added threat of CSBG, LIHEAP, and WAP funding elimination, our agencies’ operations will unravel − and community action agencies will be forced to make serious decisions. For some, it will mean closing their doors. And, for our customers, it will mean losing access to an integrated, customer-focused service delivery system designed to save lives and equip them to succeed on their own.

As one of the richest states in the country with one of the largest inequality gaps, now is the time to stand up and fight for your neighbor. To tell our policymakers to stop shredding what little safety net is left!

Stop the attacks on limited income residents in our state! Stop taking away opportunities that move people forward! Instead, let us continue to invest in those who are truly left out and left behind−empowering them to build a brighter future and a better Connecticut for us all.

Edith Pollock Karsky is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action (CAFCA), the state association for Connecticut’s Community Action Agencies, the statewide network of antipoverty agencies that serve more than 357,500 people statewide per year. Visit www.cafca.org/our- network to find your local Community Action Agency.

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