Human Services Programs of Carroll County, Inc., is asking people to call their congressional representatives over proposed federal budget cuts that the nonprofit believes will harm programs designed to help seniors, young children and the disabled.
“If you care about people in your community that are in those populations then we do have to raise our voices and make sure those things get funded so we can continue to take care of those folks,” said Matthew Peregoy, director of marketing and outreach at HSP.
At issue is the fiscal year 2019 federal budget recently proposed by Republican President Donald Trump’s administration that cuts or eliminates funding to certain social spending categories, including two HSP leans on heavily: The Community Services Block Grant, or CSBG, and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP programs.
“In the proposed federal budget, there is zero funding for CSBG,” Peregoy said. “Those funds allow us to do some of the things that make us unique.”
The nearly $250,000 HSP received through the CSBG program in FY17 allowed the nonprofit to keep 223 families housed through eviction assistance, provided hands-on job training to more than 120 people and coordinated the sheltering and case management of almost 400 people, according to both Peregoy and the HSP website. The funds are particularly useful, he noted, because unlike some grants, the funding is flexible rather than tied to one narrow purpose.
“It allows us to fight poverty at a local level,” Peregoy said. “CSBG allows you to use their funds as match funding, to use it to create programs that address local problems and in that way it is an extremely flexible form of funding that allows us to create the unique programming to address the unique local needs we have.”
Also of concern to HSP is the elimination of LIHEAP funding in the proposed budget. Peregoy noted that of the 5,700 people being helped with fuel and heating costs through the program, 1,200 are seniors on a fixed income, another 1,200 people with disabilities and around 400 are children younger than 5.
“These are folks who are not necessarily going to be able to go increase their income; they’re on a fixed income because they have Social Security or disability,” he said. “Those folks are an important part of our population that deserve to be taken care of and helped out when they need it.”
Both the LIHEAP and CSBG programs are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which would see a cut of $17.9 billion — roughly 21 percent — from the 2017 enacted level under the proposed budget.
“The Budget continues the 2018 Budget proposals to eliminate low-performing or ineffective programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG),” the budget reads. “LIHEAP is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes, and the Government Accountability Office has raised concerns about fraud and abuse in the program in the past. CSBG also has difficulty in demonstrating effective outcomes.”
This is not exactly unprecedented, however, according to Peregoy, particularly the possibility of cutting the CSBG.
“It’s been threatened under Democratic and Republican presidents as well,” he said. “That’s not new.”
Trump’s FY18 budget also proposed cutting the CSBG and LIHEAP programs, Peregoy said, but they were ultimately funded by Congress.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, a member Budget and Appropriations Committee, supported that funding.
“From facilitating job training and adult education courses to helping struggling families get a roof over their head, funding from the Community Service Block Grant provides individuals the support they need to find and keep a job,” Van Hollen said. “In the first half of FY2017, Maryland received about $6.3 million towards important services like these in our communities — that’s why I’ve continuously fought to protect this program.”
Peregoy hopes people will go to the HSP website at www.hspinc.org/take-action-2019-federal-budget-cuts and contact their representatives in Congress to ensure these programs are funded yet again.
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“We also have a script that you can use; it’s nonpartisan, it just states that you believe in these programs and you believe they should be funded,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”