Monday, March 25, 2013

Video Script for Impact of Sequestration Cuts

Tell Your Senator/Congress Person 
How Sequestration Funding Cuts Will Impact You! 

1) How to start:

Hi, Senator ____/Congressman _____/ Congresswoman_____,

My name is _______.  I live in _____ (town/city).

Today, I am at (put your organization name here) in (put town/city name here).

When I come here, they help me with _____ (put program or service name here).

2) Tell your story:

Please say what you receive from the organization.

Please say what you like about the organization.

Please say what will happen to you if the organization goes away.

3) How to finish:

Please stop the pain and reverse the sequestration cuts!

Thank you for watching. 

What Sen. Rob Portman's Reversal on Gay Marriage Says about Federal Budget Cuts to CSBG

 By Peter Missouri

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), a staunch opponent of gay marriage rights, announced last week that he's changed his mind on the issue and now believes that, "...if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married." Why? Because two years ago Senator Portman's son told him that he's gays, so the Midwest conservative suddenly remembered, "…the Bible's overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God." Senator Portman also added that Republicans should in fact join him in supporting gay marriage rights since "conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people's lives."

It's natural that our personal experiences shape our values, but a politician shouldn't need to be personally affected by every issue involving individual liberty in order to feel empathy for those that are deprived of this incredible aspect of our Constitution. Individual freedom and the right to pursue happiness constitute the foundation of the American value system and politicians should always aim to afford Americans more freedom and not less. 

What Sen. Portman and his fellow Washington politicians fail to understand is that investing in job creating programs for Americans will downsize government involvement in our society because financial security leads to less people needing welfare programs. The Federal Department of Labor's Workforce Investment Act (WIA), for example, encourages Americans to get better jobs so that they move up the economic ladder beyond minimum wage and contribute as taxpaying members of society.

Unfortunately, for the last 5 years, Washington has done more to reward bad behavior than to encourage patriotic citizenship. They keep cutting the CSBG budget while rewarding businesses that send American jobs to other countries.

CSBGs help millions of American attain their personal freedom by investing in our economy through poverty prevention and education. These issues are vital for economic growth because our consumer economy needs more consumers and less people dependent on safety programs. We need more jobs and less poverty. Most Americans want to contribute to society, but not all have the opportunity to do so. Programs such as Head Start invest in American children so they can be a productive part of society. 

CSBGs create individual freedom so I hope Sen. Portman remembers that during the upcoming budget talks. If that's not enough, then hopefully he'll remember "the Bible's overarching themes of love and compassion." Because no one needs more compassion than the most vulnerable in our society. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sequestration – it’s getting personal.

By Roxanne Reddington-Wilde
Action for Boston Community Development

The jokes are more pointed day by day.

Friday, March 1st: I walk in the door to work. “Well, looks like we’ve a job this morning. Think we will by tonight?” That welcomed me on the first day of sequestration. Or was that me greeting my office mates? A program director came wandering in later, and cracked the same joke. Everyone had the same worry.

In early February, all of us staff at Action for Boston Community Development got termination notices. “Should it become necessary,” ABCD could lay any one off, with no further notice, effective March 1st and beyond. And so all of us became personally familiar with Sequestration and the Federal Government’s inability to manage its long-term spending wisely.

A couple days ago, a Head Start site director brought by some “Stop Sequestration” petitions parents had been out collecting signatures on and paused to ask, “Do you think we’ll really be cut? When will we know? Parents are asking if we will be here next fall. They don’t want to enroll their kid now if we won’t be around come September.” She runs a single-classroom center. If she loses a critical mass of kids, her doors will shut. And, if people think her doors will shut, they won’t sign up their kids. There goes Head Start for that neighborhood… and everyone’s jobs at that center.

We’ve received lay-off notices before, when Congress contemplated CSBG spending cuts. When this one came, friends on my floor asked me, “how’s this any different?” Oh, it is. This is the law, not some possibility that might be voted in. And March 1st has come to pass. We were all still employed Friday the 1st at 5:00 and the anxiety behind the joking subsided a bit. We left with a “see you Monday morning… I think.”

Sunday morning and the Boston Globe ran a big story on “Cost of Sequestration Hits Home in Boston” (3/03/13). “Good,” I thought, “We’re letting everyone know what Massachusetts has to fight for.” Monday morning and I was feeling pretty relaxed, getting ready for work. I glanced at the Globe and saw another front page story, this one on Community Action directors gathering in DC for the NCAF conference and to personally speak to their congressional delegations on sequestration. “Well, that’s a first,” I thought. “NCAF makes the Globe for a yearly shindig in DC. Not bad, another chance to educate people on impacts of any cuts.” I skimmed the article. And there was our CEO, John Drew, mentioning the layoff notices and a new figure for me, saying he was “looking to lay off 100 staff.” My stomach sank. I did the math. We’re a big agency. Still, that comes out to 1 in every 8 staff. I started worrying personally again.

This week the jokes have been, “know where the unemployment office is?” and “So, hope you’ve got some vacation hours saved up.” Some folks are saying, half wistfully, “well, getting laid off would give time to get stuff done ‘round the house.” I’m known around the agency for public benefits advocacy work. A couple came to me and asked how long unemployment benefits run these days. I half jokingly said, “maybe I should book Mass Law Reform Institute to do another “know your unemployment rights” training… and invite all of ABCD.”

I’m proud of the way ABCD has been fighting to stop sequestration. We did a huge rally on February 25th with five members of our Congressional delegation and some 18 directors of statewide organizations whose services would be affected. All the local TV stations were there. The petitions and letters are pouring in to my department and we’re sending then on to said members of Congress.

At the last Head Start Parent Policy Council meeting, I explained how Sequestration would Head Start and the many other ABCD services. I couldn’t have been more proud when one woman – I don’t know if she was a parent or staff, and it doesn’t matter – said she decided to collect petition signatures on the street, at her local bus stop on the way to work and wherever she found herself. One man didn’t want to sign. She asked him what his mother would do if Meals on Wheels stopped bring her food. He signed.

The early-warning, lay-off notices were a wise move on ABCD’s part. The agency needs to be flexible so we can best preserve services for the many people of Boston and beyond who need fuel assistance, job training, Head Start, help applying for food stamps, ESOL and citizenship services if they are going to survive and make their way in a economy turned against them. But it feels like the government has turned against all of us.

Roxanne Reddington-Wilde has been a Community Planner at Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. since the August, 1996 week President Clinton signed Welfare Reform into existence and ABCD asked her to pull together a community conference on how that government action would affect the real lives of real human beings.