Stimulus: the Nonprofit Scorecard

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*The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) program, one of the best federal programs there is, putting money into community loan funds and others that support community economic development activities, would get a quarter million in the Senate bill as opposed to nothing from the House.  Compared to the TARP bailout last year that provided commercial lenders with billions that still hasn’t rekindled bank lending. putting money into CDFIs is a great stimulus idea, the money to CDFIs will definitely get spent.  A quarter mil is bubkas.  The program deserves much more money as an important economic stimulus initiative.

*There has been a remarkable tug of war over the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, created last summer as a HUD program with $3.92 billion to help communities and nonprofits tackle vacant foreclosed properties that are engulfing poor neighborhoods due to the subprime mortgage foreclosure crisis.  The House version of the stimulus had allotted another $4.19 billion for this purpose.  The Senate bill dropped that to $2.25 billion, and in a further adjustment, might zero this out entirely.  This is one story that will be discussed in another Cohen Report very soon.

*However, among HUD programs, the Senate bill continues the $1.5 billion slated for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, but increases the allocation for the HOME program from $1.5 billion in the House bill to $2.25 billion.

*CR readers asked for attention to job training programs.  One would think this category would get boosted, but the Senate bill reduces the $4 billion directed by the House to training and employment services to $3.25 billion. That includes cutting the House’s $750 million in national emergency grants for employment and training services to $200 million and cutting the House’s $500 million for the Dislocated Workers National Reserve to $250 million.  But YouthBuild, slated for $50 million in the House stimulus package, gets boosted to $100 million in the Senate bill.

*At Health and Human Services, funding to pay for the services offered by community health centers, targeted by the House for $500 million, gets zero in the Senate bill, but money for community health services infrastructure (facilities, etc.) jumped from the House’s $1 billion to $1.875 billion.

*Readers asked for attention to the faith-based program.  In the House bill, there was apparently $100 million for the Compassion Capital Fund, the funding pool created as part of President Bush’s faith-based initiative.  The Senate bill has this at zero.

*The important $1 billion the House had slated for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) drops to $200 million in the Senate version, but the long-forgotten Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), a zero in the House, gets $400 million in the Senate.

*The Senate agrees with the House regarding $200 million for the operations of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the home of AmeriCorps among others, but designated $40 million of that specifically for the National Service Trust that pays for the education awards earned by AmeriCorps participants.

*Sad to say, but the Senate bill reduces the money directed to US Department of Agriculture Section 502 home loans:  The House had a total of $500 million in loans and guaranteed loans; the Senate bill looks more like $200 million.

*As requested from readers of the Cohen Report, it’s important to pay attention to social safety net issues.  The Senate bill does much better than the House version on Women Infants and Children (WIC) program ($500 million compared to $100 million) and puts in $100 million into Child Nutrition Lunch equipment (the House had nothing for this), though it zeroed out the $631 million the House had put it for the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  Temporary Emergency Food Assistance stays in both bills at $150 million.

*The $150 million in the House bill for the Smithsonian’s capital improvements gets halved in the Senate bill.

The economic stimulus scorecard will change again as the competing bills head into conference and compromise.  While it is important for nonprofits to monitor which elements of the stimulus package might end up in their program budgets, they should be concerned not simply with advocating for more money, but advocating for appropriations that will really do something about the nation’s downward economic spiral.  Extra federal capital infusions in 501(c)(3) budgets that don’t affect the nation’s burgeoning joblessness will simply fall further and further behind the needs of Americans for services, support, and jobs (note: nearly 13 percent of the nation’s workforce is now jobless, employed part-time because they can’t get desired full-time employment, or has stopped looking for work entirely).  Nonprofits are supposed to be intermediaries connecting federal (and state) programs with people in need; it’s what nonprofits do and deliver that really counts right now.