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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Support a Continuing Resolution that Provides Essential Services for Low-income Families

Advocacy Letter - 09/19/08

Source: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Recipient: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Chairman Obey:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse coalition of civil and human rights organizations with nearly 200 member organizations, we are writing to urge your support for a Continuing Resolution (CR) that addresses urgent needs for housing, food, energy assistance, and other important services for children and low-income families. If these programs are funded at FY 2008 levels, there will be continued loss of essential services at a time of growing need. The following items urgently require more than the flat funding usually provided in a temporary CR.

It is important to note that this list in no way covers the growing unmet needs caused both by years of inadequate funding and by the weakening economy. It is certainly not a substitute for the investments needed now for economic recovery, although some items on the list should be vital pieces of an economic recovery package.

Nutrition:

  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): The current estimate for additional funds needed to serve the growing caseload is $7.1 billion. We urge you to consult closely with those providing WIC services to provide the amount adequate to cover both the substantial increases in WIC food costs and in the number of infants, small children, and pregnant women requiring help. The weak economy could very well push the caseload higher than early estimates. The Bush administration had assumed a caseload of only 8.6 million in FY 2009, a level that has already been exceeded
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): $100 million—the level authorized in the recently enacted Farm Bill—is needed for storage and distribution of emergency food. The ability of emergency food facilities to meet growing need has been severely compromised by the skyrocketing cost of transporting food. The cost of diesel fuel has jumped 66 percent in the last year, increasing TEFAP transportation costs by $10-13 million. If this funding level is not achieved, food banks will be forced to buy less food in order to pay for transportation.
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): The CR should increase funding for CSFP to take into account rising food costs.. CSFP provided food packages to more than 466 million people, mostly seniors, in FY 2007. The cost of those packages has risen with the rise in food costs.

Housing:

  • Project-Based Section 8 Contract Renewals: The Continuing Resolution must include language authorizing HUD to obligate funds at an accelerated rate in FY 2009. The language should ensure that contracts being renewed or receiving a new funding allocation have enough funding to maintain contract payments for up to 180 days or for the remaining contract period. If HUD does not receive this authority, there will be massive delays in payments that will jeopardize housing owners’ ability to cover utilities, maintenance, and even their mortgage costs.

Home Energy:

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): The CR must allow spending at the annualized rate of $5.1 billion (an increase of $3.1 billion over current funding for the full fiscal year). This year, home heating costs are expected to rise 20 percent, on top of a 49 percent increase in costs over the past four years. But because LIHEAP has been so inadequately funded, the amount provided to the one in six eligible households fortunate enough to receive this help has actually declined: from $458 in FY 2006 to $355 in FY 2008, on average. At the same time, the caseload continues to rise, from 5.592 million in FY 2007 to 5.798 million in FY 2008.

Child Care/Early Childhood Education:

  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): The CR should provide funding at the annualized level approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, $2.137 billion (which includes a $75 million increase over FY 2008). Level-funded for many years, CCDBG shrunk 10 percent from FY 2005 to FY 2008, taking inflation into account. The president’s flat-funded budget would cause a loss of child care services for 100,000 children from FY 2008 to FY 2009. As families struggle with the rising cost of necessities and, too often, reduced earnings, the need for affordable, quality child care is growing.
  • Head Start: Head Start, a vital investment in early childhood development, needs funding adequate to prevent further reductions in services for children and families and to begin to rebuild from the 11 percent cut it has sustained between FYs 2002 and 2008 (adjusted for inflation). In FY 2008, Head Start’s funding was cut by $10.6 million, despite the growing need to help the program recover from past erosion. Head Start programs have coped with previous years of insufficient funding by reducing hours or days of service, or cutting transportation. This year, if funding is not increased beyond the $7.12 billion in the House Appropriations bill, it is estimated that Head Start programs nationwide will not be able to provide services for 14,000 children and their families.

Family and Community Services:

  • Social Services Block Grant (SSBG/Title XX): The Social Services Block Grant needs to be increased to enable states and communities to respond flexibly to growing needs and hardships caused by the recession. SSBG has been level funded at $1.7 billion for years; it has lost 9 percent of its value from FY 2005 through FY 2008, counting inflation. States share in the cost of the services for the elderly and for children and families funded through SSBG, but states’ fiscal capacity has been significantly hurt in the downturn. Additional funding for SSBG can prevent loss of services including meals on wheels, adult and child day care, family counseling, etc.

We urge that the Continuing Resolution cover the shortest practicable period, so that Congress can return to enact full-year appropriations that allow real progress in serving more families and communities in need. Should you require further information or have any questions, please contact Nancy Zirkin, at (202) 263-2880, or Corrine Yu, Senior Counsel, (202) 466-5670, regarding this or any issue.

Sincerely,
Wade Henderson, President & CEO
Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President

Our Members