News and analysis
February 22, 2011

Nonprofit Advocates Scramble to Head Off Deep Federal Budget Reductions

Corporation for National and Community Service

The House of Representatives voted over the weekend to eliminate $1-billion from the agency that oversees AmeriCorps, effectively killing the national-service program.

Nonprofit advocates are gearing up to try to head off deep federal budget cuts for the 2011 fiscal year that were adopted over the weekend by the House of Representatives.

The legislation, which would cover spending until the end of September, would slash a wide range of social programs and completely kill AmeriCorps, other national-service programs, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

It would also end federal money to help the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates offer family-planning services to low-income women. The group is a regular target for Republicans who argue that such spending frees up funds that can be used to perform abortions.

The cuts would also end payments to a variety of nonprofit groups that get funds that are considered "earmarks" because they are awarded without competition.

The spending plan is part of a Republican-led effort to slice $100-billion out of President Obama's proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year. It is likely to face a tough battle in the Democratic-led Senate when Congress returns from recess next week, which some observers fear could lead to a government shutdown.

Legislation that enables the government to finance all programs at 2010 levels expires on March 4.

"We held no program harmless from our spending cuts, and virtually no area of government escaped this process unscathed," Rep. Hal Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said after the new bill was passed.

Among the legislation's proposed cuts:

National service. More than $1-billion would be eliminated from the budget of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which got $1.15-billion in the 2010 fiscal year. The agency, which operates AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn and Serve America, and other national-service programs, would get just a small amount to cover salaries and other obligations until the end of the fiscal year. This would also end the Social Innovation Fund, which provides grants to help nonprofit groups expand effective programs.

•  Head Start. More than $1-billion would be eliminated from the Head Start program, which got $7.2-billion in 2010.

Community health centers. More than $1-billion would be slashed from community health centers, which got $2.2-billion in 2010, in effect canceling out the extra money that is set to flow to the centers under the new health-care law.

Legal services for the poor. Some $70-million would be reduced from the budget of the Legal Services Corporation, which got $394-million in 2010.

Community services. Some $305-million would be withheld from Community Services Block Grants, which got about $700-million in 2010. (Mr. Obama also wants to cut these grants in the 2012 fiscal year.)

The bill would also strip federal spending from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides grants to public radio and television stations, in the 2013 fiscal year and rescind any "unobligated" money that is left in this year's budget. (Money is allocated to this organization two years ahead of time because it takes so long to produce some programs and to insulate the agency from political pressures.)

Among groups that would lose their earmarks are New Leaders for New Schools, Reading Is Fundamental, Special Olympics, and Teach for America.

Supporters of AmeriCorps, including alumni of the program, are among those who are trying to rally the troops against the proposed cuts. They have set up an online petition and a Stand for AmeriCorps Facebook page and organized a Save Service District Day, urging people to visit their members of Congress in their home districts on February 25., the liberal advocacy group, has organized a petition to "Save NPR and PBS," and a coalition of public radio and television stations and others have helped to organize "170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting."