April 12, 2011

Most Community-Action Money Spared in Budget Deal

The program that President Obama singled out in his State of the Union address for a deep spending cut—Community Services Block Grants—fared relatively well in the 2011 budget deal that was hatched by lawmakers last week.

The program, which provides money to a network of community-action agencies across the country, would get $680-million for the fiscal year that ends September 30, according to details of the bill provided by the Senate Appropriations Committee. While that is $20-million less than in 2010, the cut comes nowhere near the $350-million that Mr. Obama said he wanted to trim in his 2012 budget plan.

Mr. Obama said he also wanted to make groups compete for the grants, which are now distributed according to a formula based on the number of people in poverty.

David Bradley, executive director of the National Community Action Foundation, which lobbies for and provides services to community-action agencies, says he thinks the program was spared because lawmakers heard from many mayors, county officials, and others who wanted to preserve the programs in their communities.

Still, as a sign of how the political climate has changed, when the Democrats controlled the House last year, they proposed increasing the budget for the block grants to $800-million.

The new 2011 budget plan must still be approved by the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate.