Obama’s Budget Negotiations Leave Community Action Agencies in Lurch

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June 8, 2011; Source: Bradley’s Brushback | One gets an increasing sense that nonprofits are frustrated with President Obama’s federal budget strategies, but few are willing to say it publicly – or say anything at all critical of the President, instead employing tortured syntax to raise questions about current federal policies without ever having to hint that the President’s approach might not be all that helpful or positive.

At the National Community Action Foundation, one of the two national bodies advocating for community action agencies, NCAF’s executive director David Bradley posted two blog items that politely but directly call into question President Obama’s strategies and programs.

As NPQ Newswire readers know from this website (here and here, President Obama called for virtually gutting the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program in his fiscal year 2012 budget; news that caught community action agencies completely by surprise. These anti-poverty activists had assumed – wrongly – that the president was in their corner for defending CSBG, the bulwark of community action agency funding.

A consummate denizen of Capitol Hill, Bradley uses his blog to recount his negotiations with a senior House Republican on the Appropriations Committee. This “friend” told Bradley it would have been easier to protect CSBG funding hadn’t the President called for it to be cut in half. The fact that the President “singled out” CSBG for cuts in his State of the Union speech, in the political scrum in the Capitol, makes it impossible for Republicans, they feel, to put funding back in that the President had removed, particularly as the Republican leadership in budget negotiations with Vice President Biden is likely to call for $2.5 trillion in spending cuts. Essentially, the President’s proposal becomes a ceiling for CSBG funding that Republicans won’t go beyond.

Bradley also took a shot at the President’s commitment to “green jobs”, asking where they might be. Community action agencies had undertaken weatherization efforts funded by the stimulus with an expectation that the weatherization would be a “career path into this new [green] industry” for the people they recruited. In Bradley’s mind, “Expectations for the future of Weatherization – and all the possibilities it offers – have been short circuited.” This is tough, forthright language about where anti-poverty activists feel that the President might have left them short.—Rick Cohen