This is a set of articles in which leaders of local service organizations describe the possible impacts of proposed federal budget cuts on the services they provide and the issues that concern them.
The Impact on Basic Adult Education
By Don Block
In our state it is nearly impossible for people who don’t have a high school diploma to find work. Yet there are over 700,000 Pennsylvanians of working age who don’t have a diploma. They need our help.
Adult basic education programs allow adults who didn’t finish high school or who are refugees or immigrants to improve their skills, get a high school credential, and enter employment or higher education. A recent survey of the programs in our state showed that 6,000 potential students were on waiting lists because the programs didn’t have the resources to enroll them. This is truly a social justice issue.
The federal government provides only about $20 million of funding to our state for adult basic and literacy education. With thousands on waiting lists and many more in need, this is no time for the federal government to reduce its commitment to those learners. If the new administration is serious about bringing jobs to Americans, then adult basic education is an essential service. Please include adult basic education in your advocacy efforts with federal officials.
Don Block is the Executive Director of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
The Impact on Hunger and Food Access
By Emily Cleath
Pennsylvania’s child hunger rate of 1 in 5 is a disgrace. In Allegheny County it’s even worse: roughly half of African-American and Latino children live in poverty. Yet President Trump and Congressional Republican leaders apparently care more about bombing children in other countries than in helping them in ours. Their budgets and new policies have been documents of class war – outright attacks against struggling families, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQs, immigrants, people of color, and other vulnerable households. Their agenda is not a reflection of the majority of Americans’ values and priorities.
Taking from the poor to give to the rich and the military is not only amoral, it’s bad governance — because starving our communities of needed resources creates costs of its own that we all must bear. Instead of a War on the Poor we need a real War on Poverty. That requires a living minimum wage and expanding tax breaks for low-income workers, and other key worker protections. Or it requires substantive investments in the critical safety net programs that provide nutrition, cash, child care, medical, housing, and home energy assistance – because these days 80% of Americans need such assistance at some point in their lives.
Emily Cleath is Communications Director for Just Harvest, an organization dedicated to securing healthy food access and economic equality.
The Impact on Affordable Housing
By Larry Swanson
The impact of the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget proposal to Congress on affordable housing is that a 13% reduction in the HUD budget would result in the elimination of the CDBG (Community Development Block Grants), HOME, and Choice Neighborhood Programs, major reductions in Operating and Capital Improvement funds for Public Housing and a reduction in Housing Choice Vouchers. This happens because although HUD has a $ 43 billion budget the 13% reduction must be applied to programs in which funds are not committed for multiple years. This budget, if approved by Congress, would effectively end all new affordable housing production as well as significantly reduce the staff of many operating agencies.
What it means to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is a loss of $ 62 million dollars per year in affordable housing funds; and the elimination of key programs that provide for affordable housing and allow the Public Housing Authorities to improve their properties, and reduction of vouchers for both the City and the County.
ACTION –Housing develops and operates affordable housing that has supportive programs for people with special needs. This has included people with disabilities, youth in crisis, Veterans, and single persons with chronic needs. While we can maintain our current properties we would be unable to respond to critical community needs and provide opportunities for people to build self sufficient lives.
We believe most Pittsburgh residents, like most Americans, support providing safe and affordable housing that creates the opportunity for people to build safer and more self-sufficient lives.
Larry Swanson is Executive Director of ACTION-Housing, Inc. in Pittsburgh.
The Impact on Transitional Housing
By Sr. Mary Parks
Sisters Place has been helping homeless families for twenty years. Recently we have been alarmed by what seems to be an attempt to end homelessness by “definition.” Allegheny County, which acts as the lead agency for providers who secure HUD (Housing and Urban Development) grants, decided to end its HUD funded Transitional Housing Programs. Consultants warned that the county might lose these programs anyway, no matter how many families we were helping. Since all people in Transitional Housing are still considered homeless by definition, ending this support for needy families will immediately reduce our homeless statistics. To be clear, this is not going to reduce homelessness, just those considered homeless by federal definition.
We are further concerned to learn that the newly appointed Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dr. Ben Carson, approves of a drastic $6.2 billion reduction in funding for his agency. This sets a tone very like that of Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce. You may recall that at the end of the Reagan years homelessness was at epidemic levels and we still have not totally recovered. Now I fear we never will.
Since 1997 … 62 babies have been born at Sisters Place and we have housed 320 families, including 328 parents and 643 children.
Sr. Mary Parks is Executive Director of Sisters Place, Inc., which is dedicated to assisting homeless single-parent families.