News and analysis
April 12, 2011

Federal Budget Deal Includes Cuts to a Wide Range of Nonprofits

Planned Parenthood, which used this bus on a recent media tour to build support, is one of many organizations affected by federal budget cuts.

The federal budget cuts lawmakers agreed to last week will shave money from a wide swath of social programs, including community health-care centers, national service, energy assistance, and family planning, according to details of the deal that were released late Monday night.

The legislation, which covers spending through the fiscal year that ends on September 30, is not as radical as a plan that the Republican-led House adopted in February.

The Republican plan would have made even deeper cuts in many areas and eliminated spending on AmeriCorps, Planned Parenthood, and public broadcasting. The new deal even allows one program, Head Start, to get a slight increase from 2010 spending of $7.2-billion “to ensure that all children currently enrolled will continue to receive services.”

But few other programs were spared cuts in a package that aims to slash almost $40-billion from current spending levels. Lawmakers say the budget marks the biggest cut in non-defense spending in the nation’s history.

The 2011 spending deal, which was worked out by Republican and Democratic lawmakers and President Obama, now goes to the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate for a vote.

In addition to specific spending cuts, all non-defense programs would be trimmed across the board by 0.2 percent.

Among the bill's provisions: 

The arts and humanities. The budgets for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would fall to $155-million each, down from $167.5-million in 2010.

Community health-care centers. Spending on these centers, which got $2.2-billion in 2010, would fall by $600-million, one of the biggest cuts in the health and human services area.

Energy assistance. The legislation would cut $390-million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps people pay their energy bills, bringing spending to $4.7-billion.

National service. Although President Obama came into office pledging to greatly increase the number of people participating in AmeriCorps, the new deal would cut $23-million in spending on the national-service program, which got $327.5-million in 2010. The budget for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which manages AmeriCorps, would fall to $1.08-billion, down from $1.15-billion in 2010.

Family planning. While Planned Parenthood was not singled out for defunding as Republicans had hoped, the legislation would cut $17-million from Title X, a family-planning grant program, bringing spending to $300-million.

Legal services for the poor. Spending on grants made by the Legal Services Corporation to legal-aid groups would be cut by $15-million, down from $394-million in 2010. 

Promise Neighborhoods. This program, which aims to expand an antipoverty strategy pioneered by the Harlem Children’s Zone, is among the few programs that would get an increase, from $10-million in 2010 to $30-million this year. However, that is far below the $210-million that President Obama proposed for this year. Last year’s money went to 21 communities to help them plan projects offering a comprehensive set of educational, medical, and social services to children and their parents in specific neighborhoods. The president wanted to provide extra money to help this year’s grant winners put their projects into place. 

 Public broadcasting. The package would leave the basic allocation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting unchanged—$445-million for the 2013 fiscal year, the same as for 2012 (public broadcasting gets money two years in advance, in part because many of its programs take time to plan). However, it would cut other spending that benefits public radio and television broadcasters, for example trimming the budget for digital content and services from $36-million to $6-million.

Budget Deficit

While some areas, like public broadcasting, got off relatively easily, advocates will not be able to relax. The Republican-led House has made it clear it will not relent in its pursuit of spending cuts to help close the nation’s budget deficit and bring down the national debt. The issue is ready set to flare up again when Congress must decide whether to raise the national debt ceiling in the next few months.

“I’m grateful that Congress has affirmed their support for public broadcasting,” says Tim Isgitt, senior vice president for communications and government affairs for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “But I know that the budget battles and deficit-reduction battles will continue and we need to continue to make the case for federal funding.”