Federal cuts force local non-profit agency to downsize

In order to prepare for the worst - a drastic cut in federal funding - Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (OLHSA), a local 501(c)3 non-profit Community Action Agency based in Pontiac, was forced to cut staffing and reduce services to the low-income community in Oakland and Livingston Counties.

In 2009 a continuing resolution was passed by Congress, extending funding for community action through the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). On Friday, March 18, the Senate will be voting to amend that resolution. If passed, the amendment will axe 40 percent of current fiscal year CSBG funding, meaning OLHSA would have to cease spending CSBG funds immediately, and resulting in a reduction to the services OLHSA provides to the community and lost jobs.

Affected staff members were recently notified of layoffs, but that outcome could still change after the vote in a couple of weeks.

"It is a very somber day. We haven't faced anything this dramatic since 1995 when there was a federal shut-down. Even in past years when CSBG began at $0 each budget year, things were not this dramatic. We had the support to boost CSBG into the 700 million range [nationally] before budgets were passed, and community action was allowed to thrive," said Ronald B. Borngesser, OLHSA CEO.

For the 1,100 Community Action Agencies across the country, including OLHSA, it all starts with CSBG. It is the funding that launched community action in 1964, and it's what continues to lay the financial foundation for community action every year. Locally, OLHSA receives about 1.3 million CSBG dollars. This crucial funding allows OLHSA to leverage more than 61 million dollars in additional resources for Oakland and Livingston Counties.

Because CSBG is community action's foundation funding, it is unique and lets OLHSA tailor its services to the needs of the community. Programs directly funded by CSBG include Welcome Center programs, which provide a one-stop-shop for low income or elderly clients who come to OLHSA for services.

"The decision in Washington will change the course of community action. Other local non-profits would be flooded with residents in need seeking assistance, services would no longer be available, and some leveraged dollars would go away. The other outcome would be a temporary safe zone, with continued funding but absolutely no more promises," said Borngesser.

OLHSA is led by a board that represents every sector of its community, from leaders of the lower-income areas where the CAA works to elected officials, faith communities and many private sector partners. Their goal is to find better ways to make our citizens more economically secure and build a more prosperous future for us all. The people, activities and investments CSBG supports let them carry out that mission.

OLHSA is requesting local community members to contact their U.S. elected officials to encourage them to maintain current level funding status - it is not too late to ask elected officials to save CSBG.

Published: Mon, Mar 7, 2011

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