Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Busy December for Congress

With the inability by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (“Supercommittee”) to reach a deal before Thanksgiving, December will be a busy time for the U.S. House of Representative and Senate. Funding for the Federal Government expires on December 16th, meaning that Congress will have to pass either a Fiscal Year 2012 Budget or another continuing resolution (CR) before that deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Also looming are the thorny issues of a payroll tax extension, unemployment insurance, and the “doc fix” to cover the shortfall in Medicare payments to physicians, all of which are about to expire and the “Supercommittee” was supposed to address in its deliberations. Possible vehicles for these to be extended include the defense appropriations bill, an omnibus appropriations bill, or another CR.

On November 22nd, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer, and Assistant Democratic Leader, James Clyburn, wrote to Speaker John Boehner asking him to pass these three pieces of legislation. They argued that, “Independent economists from across the political spectrum estimate that the failure to pass these essential pieces of legislation could reduce economic growth by 2 percentage points next year.” Adding to this argument for a stimulus push to prevent another recession, the Congressional Budget Office last week released a report indicating that the ARRA economic stimulus package created 0.9 million jobs in 2009, 3.3 million jobs in 2010, and 2.6 million jobs in 2011.

Since the Democrats and Republicans seem far apart on how to pass these measures, it seems likely that lawmakers will remain in Washington, DC well past the date of December 8th, when the House was schedule to adjourn for the year. We need to remind our elected officials of the importance of an extension for the payroll tax cut, unempolyment insurance, and the Medicare payment "doc fix" in the lives of working Americans.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

One of the crucial pieces to solving our country’s debt crisis is the need to put people to work. As the economy continues to sputter and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is in its final stages, there is a need for Washington, DC to implement a real jobs plan.

With almost 14 million people unemployed, there is a need to put people to work. In addition to all the other benefits of people working, the U.S. economy reaps the proceeds of employed people paying taxes, purchasing products and services, and not drawing unemployment insurance benefits.

Harvard University economist and former National Economic Advisor, Lawrence Summers, has estimated that each additional one percent of economic growth will close the deficit by $400 billion (Center for American Progress, Recommendations for the Special Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction 2011).

Congress should recommend the extension of a payroll tax cut, the continuation of extended unemployment insurance benefits, and policies that will create jobs (and additional growth).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Release of FY 2012 LIHEAP Funds!

Late in the workday on Friday, October 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally informed states that $1.7 billion had been authorized for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This was perplexing as the program starts on November 1st. States were then left to quickly calculate benefit levels and receive authorization to start the program.

At the same time, the amount for LIHEAP authorized by Washington, DC is inadequate for the long winter ahead with high prices for oil and rising numbers of people in poverty. As a result, households in need will get less than half of the fuel assistance they received last year. For families that heat with oil, for example, the benefit will allow them to buy enough oil to last to mid-December leaving them without help for three month of winter. Both the Senate Labor-HHS and the House Subcommittee budget spending bills appropriate $3.4 billion for LIHEAP. On November 1, 2011 Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction) sent a letter to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging additional funding for LIHEAP in the Federal Fiscal Year 2012 Budget.

We must continue to push for funding LIHEAP at a full level of $5.1 billion. In the United States, we should not force our seniors, children, and working poor families to choose between heating and eating.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Join SAVE 4 All Social Media Campaign TODAY!

With the November 23rd deadline for the “super committee” recommendations just weeks away, the SAVE for All campaign needs your help urging Members of Congress to prioritize our communities.

Starting on November 1st, the SAVE for All campaign is launching a social media action campaign. They’re inviting people from all over the country to join them on Facebook and Twitter to discuss what’s happening next in the “super committee” by using the hashtag #SAVE4All. Also, please use #CommunityAction hashtag so that we can see the tweet on our website.

Here’s how you can get involved:
On Facebook, go to your Senator's Facebook page and click the ‘Like’ button at the top. Then post this message to his or her wall: "Please reject any deficit reduction plan that harms low‐income people, adds to their number, and stalls our fragile economic recovery." You can also craft your own message—the more personal the story, the better!

On Twitter, post a message like one of these:
Both parties are putting out disappointing plans in the #Supercommittee #SAVE4All #CommunityAction
Check out to see what’s happening in the #supercommittee. #SAVE4All #CommunityAction

Or go here to find your Senators Twitter handle and post a message like this:
Dear (@insert your Senator’s handle) Please reject any deficit reduction plan that harms low‐income people or stalls economic recovery #SAVE4All #CommunityAction

Monday, October 31, 2011

Legislators Call for Release of LIHEAP Funding


The reality of a fast approaching cold winter and soaring home heating prices has prompted legislators to call for action on the United Stated Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) LIHEAP budget. A bipartisan group of Senators, as well as a bipartisan group of Congressmen, have written to DHHS, asking for the immediate release of LIHEAP funds for FY11. Although the current continuing resolution keeps LIHEAP funding at the 2011 level, the President has called for a 50% reduction on the LIHEAP budget for 2012, and as a result, DHHS has been reluctant to release funding.

In a letter addressed to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 32 Senators representing both Republicans and Democrats called for the release of FY11 LIHEAP funds to states “as quickly and at as high of a level as possible .“ The letter states “low-income families spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and this is particularly true during times of extreme temperatures and increased energy prices. “ In a similar letter to HHS, a bipartisan group of Congressman also called for an immediate release of “as much LIHEAP funding as possible under the current continuing resolution” (which ends November 18, 2011), and added that “October marks the beginning of the coldest months for many families and it is not the time to hold up this needed relief”.

Currently, benefit levels for client-families cannot be established. Without this critical first step, oil dealers cannot plan deliveries for the program’s official November 1 start, deliveries desperately needed by tens of thousands of families who qualify for the program. Additionally, fuel assistance advocates do not have the client benefit information they need to work with utility companies to get families who have had their gas and/or electric shut off turned back on before the November 15 winter “moratorium” on shut offs. If utilities are not turned on by that date, families will go into the winter without heat or electricity.

If these families to go without home heating aid, many are left with the decision to pay their heating bill or put food on the table. The action by the Legislators on behalf of program participants is progress, but it is not the only thing that can be done. We must continue to let your Senators, Congressman and President know how imperative this program is to our seniors, children and working families.

Monday, September 12, 2011


The Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, which funds LIHEAP, has marked up their FY2012 Appropriations bill. The subcomimttee provided $3.6 billion for the LIHEAP program. This is lower than the FY2011 level of 4.7 billion, but higher than the Presidents request of $2.57 billion.

The House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education has postponed their mark-up, which was originally scheduled for Septmber 9, 2011. A new date has not been set.

Congress needs to hear from their constituents before the markup of this FY2012 bill. The President has proposed a 50% reduction from the last authorized LIHEAP budget - we need to let Congress know how this will affect our fellow Americans.

You can write a letter, email and/or call your Representative in Congress to your support for LIHEAP. Visit our "How to Show Your Support " page for sample letters and documents, as well as our "Make Yourself Heard" page to contact your representative.

If you would like to share with us how community action has affected you, you can send your stories, pictures and videos to

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rep. Seeks to Kick Start Dialogue about Job Creation

The topic of jobs finally is gaining momentum in Washington, DC. Both political parties now are discussing the topic. The President has just completed a bus tour where he was touring job sites. Members of Congress are home listening to constituents express concern about the state of the nation’s anemic economy.

One of the most appealing ideas recently to come out of our nation’s capital is the idea of a jobs “super-committee.” Congressman John Larson (D-CT.) is pushing legislation to establish a joint select committee on job creation to work alongside the recently appointed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. His plan would have this special working committee design a blueprint to provide every American with a job within a decade.

“This would allow the Congress to simultaneously consider both our near-term (high unemployment) and our long-term (growing debt) challenges later this year,” Rep. Larson wrote in his August 8th ‘Dear Colleague’ letter. “If not addressed, I believe the social costs of unemployment will dramatically damage the United States’ status in the world and prevents us from emerging from this recession.”

The Congressman then correctly sums up the negative impact of continued high unemployment on every day Americans. “Families are being forced out of their homes, children are being forced to forego higher education, and the elderly are being forced to retire early without nearly enough saved to cover their long-term costs.”

Rep. Larson will file his bill when the U.S. House of Representatives convenes again in September. Hopefully, the dialogue in Washington, DC then will switch to job creation and increasing employment rather than program cuts and deficit reduction.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Need to Make Our Case to White House (& Congress) Staff

In the August 4th on-line newsletter from Community Action Partnership (Partnership E-News),there was an interesting article about Steven Manela, Human Services Division Manager at Lane County (OR) Health and Human Services—a municipal Community Action Agency—who participated in a recent White House Community Leaders Forum at the White House. Steve credits reading about this opportunity in an edition of Partnership e news. During the White House briefings, Steve had the opportunity to explain to the Administration staff that food stamp/SNAP participation in Lane County, OR had doubled in the past year and that unemployment in addition to homelessness were growing.

In response to Steve’s remarks, a White House official commented that Community Action had to use the same strategy that Planned Parenthood did when it was attacked, namely demonstrate to the White House (as White House staff are not allowed to recommend lobbying Congress) the extent of Community Action support via letters, e-mails, personal contact, and support by community leaders and supporters.

We at CAPWorks could not agree more! The intent of this website is to provide the tools for Community Action staff, board members, customers, and supporters to contact the White House as well as their local U.S. Senator and Representative. In addition, we hope that you will feel free to utilize all the information listed and will also share your own community’s support letters, videos, newspaper articles, media stories, etc. for others across the country to model (and hopefully recruit a friend!).

Save Community Action!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best Way to Reduce Defecit: Put People Back to Work

The debt ceiling crisis was solved on August 2nd with the passage and signing of the Budget Control Act of 2011. And yet, the debt ceiling and deficit reduction were and are two completely different topics. The current emphasis on spending cuts is misguided. The focus should be on putting people back to work which will rebuild the economy.

Our nation continues to struggle as there is a real need to put people back to work. The first round of deficit reduction outlined in the act (to take effect on October 1, 2011) comes from nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts alone that will eliminate millions of jobs and weaken our anemic economic recovery further by jeopardizing increased revenue. The Commerce Department reported two weeks ago that the economy barely expanded in the second quarter of this year, growing at a 1.3 percent annual rate and last week it reported that consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s economic activity, fell for the first time in two years. Both of these reports have added to concern among economists that the country could slip into a second recession.

Quite simply, this legislation does not create one single job. This is worrisome at a time when 13.9 million Americans are unemployed at a rate of 9.1% in July. Not only government jobs will be lost, but also private sector jobs supported with federal funds, such as people working in the defense industry, workers fixing our road and bridges, and researchers studying diseases. Economists agree that investments in worker productivity, physical and social improvements, and research and innovation are vital to getting people back to work in the short term and making sure that our economy grows in the long run. (August 4, 2011 Letter to Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid and Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)

What is even more frustrating is that our leaders in Washington, DC failed to include any measures to stimulate the economy during debt-ceiling negotiations. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, had asked his colleagues in June to submit proposals to spur economic growth by focusing on measures that would “build bridges and dams and water systems and sewer systems” along with tax incentives to get businesses to hire new employees. Now, with the debt agreement in place, there is little room for funding to pay for economic stimulation measures. In fact, conservative members of Congress have “no appetite for extending unemployment insurance” when they return to work after their August recess.

In order to put people back to work, all facets of solving deficit reduction and stimulus for job growth should be on the table for consideration: additional revenues, entitlement reforms, as well as cuts to both defense and domestic programs.

Friday, July 29, 2011

LIHEAP: Left in the Cold

Do you have an elderly relative who lives on a fixed income? Do you know families with young children who are struggling to get through the cold winter months? Have you or someone close to you recently lost a job? For many Americans, the answer is yes. In the current state of the economy, and as the price of fuel rises, it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford home heating fuel. Next heating season, heating fuel prices are projected to rise, putting even more households at risk. There is one more thing putting our elderly grandparents, young children and struggling families at risk: the FY2012 LIHEAP budget. The proposed budget is calling for a 50% reduction in funding for LIHEAP; a reduction of this magnitude would have immediate and devastating effects.

In 2010, over 7.5 million low income households in the US would not have been able to make it through the winter if it were not for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The mission of LIHEAP is to assist low income households, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay the highest proportion of household income for home energy, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs. High heating bills can force people to lower the temperatures in their homes in order to save money. However, indoor temperatures can be lowered to unsafe levels, which can result in hypothermia (cold stress or low body temperatures). When that fuel runs out, assistance may be the only help. This is only part of the health and safety impact of LIHEAP.

The Heating System Repair and Replacement Program (HEARTWAP) is also funded through LIHEAP. The use of makeshift heating sources such as unvented or improperly vented portable heaters, barbecue grills or gas stoves, is not only a fire hazard which can result in fire deaths, but can also create the risk of asphyxiation (carbon monoxide poisoning). HEARTWAP emergency replacements help those with heating systems that fail in the winter, ensuring people are not left out in the cold. It also helps reduce the cost of heating by replacing inefficient heating systems with high efficiency systems, and keeps people safe by replacing unsafe systems, ensuring people are not exposed to high CO levels and the dangers of hazardous fuel leaking into basements or seeping into the ground.

LIHEAP funding includes more than just heating cost assistance; it has a positive impact on the economy. Heating technicians, plumbers and oil and gas vendors are able to service clients who would otherwise not be receiving service. Employing these vendors is keeping more people at work.

Fuel assistance (LIHEAP) and the energy conservation program HEARTWAP help those who are most vulnerable survive through the extreme winter months. They serve the elderly, handicapped, children and families, and employ local businesses. The proposed cut to LIHEAP will leave many out in the cold. It is time to let your representatives know that these programs must be saved. For more information on how you can reach you representatives, click here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bring Back Responsible Government

"Policymakers are risking a default on U.S. federal obligations because of a dispute over how to reduce budget deficits. The nation's long-term fiscal path is unsustainable, and policymakers should address it in a timely and responsible way. But policymakers should not hold the debt limit hostage to approval of deficit reduction measures that satisfy various idealogical or political concerns. Policymakers cannot let the government default." Separating the Debt Limit from the Deficit Problem, Kathy Ruffing and Chad Stone, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 21, 2011

The deadline for reaching an agreement around raising the federal debt ceiling is rapidly approaching. Leadership in the U.S. Congress and White House have met daily, but with a lot of grandstanding, have failed to reach a conclusion. Now is not the time for our national elected officials to act irresponsibly!

As is well demonstrated by the state budget showdown in Minnesota between a Democratic Governor and a Republican State Legislature, the lack of a budget meant a prioritization of payments for services. Social service programs, such as CSBG, LIHEAP, and Head Start, would not receive their funding. Why do programs that assist the economically disadvantaged, including children, elders, and people with disabilities, always take the first hit?

If the debt ceiling is not raised, the federal government will not be able to pay its bills. This will mean a down grade in the government’s overall credit rating and produce an increase in interest rates. If this happens, everyone will suffer with higher payments on mortgages and loans. The economy will slow down even further and even more people will lose their jobs and homes.

Now is not the time to play politics with an economy that is in desparate straits. We need to bring back responsible government! And responsible government means responsible economic policy which includes the responsibility to care for our neighbors in need.

We need to ask our elected officials to make some difficult decisions and soon. Those must include taking care of our most vulnerable citizens and ensuring that more people go back to work. These populations should not pay the price for the inaction of a federal government not meeting its financial obligations.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Increasing Poverty is Conterproductive to Reducing Deficit

America is facing one of the greatest economic challenges in its proud history. Today, the federal government is more than $14 trillion in debt, one in seven Americans are in poverty, including one in four children under five. Unemployment over the last two years has remained around 9%, with 14 million people currently out of work, and economic experts project that the rate will remain high for years to come unless Washington stops playing political games with the economy.

There is bipartisan agreement in Washington that spending cuts and an increase in revenue will reduce the deficit and lead to economic growth. Sadly, our nation’s leaders seem to be confused about where these cuts ought to be made. In the final budget approved for last year, cuts were made to effective job-creating investment programs like CSBG that are essential for economic growth. What’s worse for Americans is that Washington is dead-set on adding further cuts to CSBG in next year’s budget. All Americans will feel the depressing financial consequences of these cuts as cutting effective CSBG programs will lead to rising unemployment rates and more Americans living in poverty.

As cited in the July 8, 2011 letter from leaders of prominent national religious, civil rights, charitable, economic research, and low-income advocacy organizations to the leadership in Congress and the White House, the major bipartisan deficit reduction packages over the past twenty five years have followed the proven principle that deficit reduction should be achieved in a way that does not increase poverty because increased poverty depresses the economy. In its report from December 2010, the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility stated. "We must ensure that our nation has a robust, affordable, fair, and sustainable safety net. Benefits should be focused on those who need them the most." The 1985 and 1987 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings laws, the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act, the 1993 deficit reduction package, and the 1997 Balanced Budget Act all exempted core low-income programs from automatic spending cuts.

In addition, the 1990, 1993, and 1997 deficit reduction packages, which improved the Earned Income Tax Credit, strengthened the SNAP program, and created the Children's Health Insurance Program, show that expanding effective low-income assistance programs, such as the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG), is consistent with overall deficit reduction and the most effective path towards sustainable economic growth for America. The benefits are spent right away for household economic needs, such as rent, food, and utilities. As cited in the New York Times article of July 10, 2011, “Economy Faces a Jolt as Benefits Checks Run Out,” Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute, estimated in a study for the U.S. Labor Department that every $1 paid in jobless benefits generated as much as $2 in the economy. It’s time for us to let Washington know that CSBGs are effective programs that create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and reduce the deficit. It's time for us to contact the White House and Congress and demand that they commit to protecting the American economy. We need to urge our national leaders to act responsibly!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thank you! But Our Work Continues...

On Thursday April 14, 2010, the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in voting to keep the Federal government funded until September 30, 2011. Thanks to all your efforts, the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG), the central source of funding for Community Action across the country, was reduced from $700 million to $680 million in the Fiscal Year 2011 Federal Budget, which could have been worse given that Congress was seeking to eliminate the program. While Community Action overcame its first budget hurdle with minimal cuts, there will be many more to come.


On August 2, 2011, the U.S. Government will reach its debt ceiling, which is the limit set by Congress on the amount of money it can borrow. Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, has been able to stretch the period through administrative means, but he has informed Congress that, if they do not raise the current debt ceiling by that date, the United States will no longer be able to pay its bills.

Currently, President Obama and Vice President Obama are convening negotiations between the Republican and Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate and Congress in order to reach a compromise to extend the debt ceiling. They are discussing even more severe cuts in Federal funded, domestic programs, including CSBG, as part of an agreement in order to increase the debt limit. The two sides find themselves at an impasse over the president’s insistence that tax increases as well as spending cuts be included in an agreement.


In addition, the Administration and House Republicans are still proposing devastating budget cuts and dramatic changes to Community Action for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) beginning on October 1, 2012. In July, Congressional Budget Committees will recommend at what funding amount domestic programs will look like in FY12. The cuts, if allowed, will dismantle the Community Action network that millions of citizens rely on. Organizations nationwide will be hit hard if these changes go through. More importantly, critical services for economically disadvantaged families will be lost.


CSBG is the ONLY federal program focused on comprehensive services to helping Americans achieve economic security.

Cutting CSBG and pursuing uncertain reforms to the program will undermine the nation’s future. Working Americans need jobs that contribute to the nation’s overall economic growth. The way to respond to the need for jobs is to invest in employment training programs as well as job creation and placement. That is exactly what CSBG does so well.

In addition, CSBG enables all the other antipoverty programs, including Head Start, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Program, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, to have more of an impact in moving individuals out of poverty.


For these reasons, one has to ask why we are putting such a valuable program in danger. All of us need to let our elected officials know that Community Action is important. $680 million for CSBG is a small percentage of the overall $11 trillion Federal Budget and yet has helped 20.7 million low-income individuals, created and retained over 18,400 jobs, and assisted in accessing $14.9 billion in total funding.

You can call or email the President and your representatives in Congress. Tell them how Community Action has made a difference in your life. And encourage others to do the same!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Community Action WORKS! - Blog

We are pleased to announce the Community Action WORKS! blog.  Please check back for updates.