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LET'S DISCUSS: Boston Could Suffer Over $30 Million in Cuts of Direct Funding for City Services

From a City Press Release I just received. BEGIN::

Today, Mayor Thomas M. Menino released a comprehensive report on the potential impact of federal budget cuts currently proposed by House Republicans. According to the report, over $30 million of direct funding to the city will be cut by HR 1. The report also details additional cuts that will affect Boston residents. These include cuts to heating oil assistance, Community Service Block Grant funded efforts for low income people, and draconian reductions to Massachusetts’ Community Health Centers. These cuts are even more acute as they are occurring midway through the federal fiscal year. Next week, HR 1 moves to the Senate for consideration.

“These proposed cuts are incredibly dangerous for cities across the country and as this report shows, Boston is no less affected than others,” said Mayor Menino. “It is crucial that all elected officials, especially those representing us at the federal level, understand the severity of the cuts included in HR 1 by comprehending how many people would suffer from these drastic funding reductions. As this battle shifts to the U.S Senate, I will be working closely with community groups and mayors across the country to oppose this irresponsible plan. Throwing a wrench into the economic engines of our country is not the path to economic recovery.”

A large portion of the $30 million of direct funding that is threatened is $14 million worth of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The removal of these grants will take away the Department of Neighborhood Development’s (DND) funding for programs that benefit our neighborhoods. CDBG funding creates housing for the homeless, revitalizes main streets in neighborhoods, provides assistance to first time homebuyers as well as small business owners and supports the strong middle class of our city.

“The Community Development Block Grant program did not cause the huge federal deficit, in fact, we’ve had to struggle just about every year to maintain level funding. Everything else has gone up in cost – defense, health care, entitlements, bailouts and tax breaks – why must the best program for our neighborhoods be slashed to pay for them?” said Mayor Menino. “To cut CDBG is to cut at the heart of our efforts to strengthen neighborhoods and help people. It’s our money coming home to build better cities”

Approximately $13.2 million for the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) is at stake if the proposed cuts move forward. The BHA is the largest landlord in Boston and the largest public housing authority in New England. As such, the BHA houses approximately 10 percent of the city's residents through its programs. Capital funds provide for the modernization and development of public housing, while creating hundreds of jobs and leveraging additional investment and economic activity. In fact, every dollar of capital funds produces $2.12 in economic return.

Additional cuts will affect a broad range of services that Boston residents currently receive, including healthcare, job training, and housing for veterans.

Boston’s network of 26 community health centers is one of the best in the country and under HR 1, $4.9 million will be eliminated from the state and $1.3 billion nationwide. These severe reductions in funding will devastate the ability of community health centers to provide high-quality low-cost care. For the state, the reduction means cutting off access to quality health care for over 90,000 patients.

“Community health centers are a vital component of our health system here in Boston,” said Mayor Menino. “To reduce their ability to properly provide quality preventive health care to patients across the city will only result in greater health risks and increased health care costs later in their lives.”

At a national level, HR 1 abolishes $757 million from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition programs and $269 million in Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHRP) funding. In Boston, PHRP funds are used for flu preparedness and vaccination clinics as well as general public health preparedness and response related to disease outbreaks, and biological, chemical, or nuclear threats to public health. The WIC program in Boston has approximately 23,551 participants, breaking down as roughly 5,538 women, 4,967 infants and 13,046 children who benefit from the supplemental nutrition that WIC provides. All of those vital services are threatened if HR 1 moves forward.

At a time when oil prices are skyrocketing, the proposed $14 million reduction to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is troubling. These funds provide heating assistance to 26,000 households in Boston. Even services for the country’s veterans are not spared in the marauding of HR1 10,000 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers has been shamefully put at risk. The BHA has seen a 46% increase in the past two years from 331 to 665 in the number of veterans seeking affordable housing. Currently, the BHA subsidizes 260 veterans and their families through VASH vouchers.

“I am a strong supporter of balanced budgets but smart financial management is about more than cutting programs that don’t work – it’s about investing in programs that do,” said Mayor Menino. “We must identify the correct items to cut, how about the numerous federal tax expenditures that benefit the country’s wealthiest or the skyrocketing cost of health care? There are plenty of things that can be cut to fix our deficit in place of the working programs singled out by the House Republicans. Bill Clinton left our nation with a balanced budget, the eight years that followed destroyed that discipline.”


LET'S DISCUSS: Please leave comments below with your reactions and proposed solutions.

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Comment by Barbara Hatfield on February 24, 2011 at 4:14pm

We shouldn't be surprised that the Republican House would recommend these cuts to essential discretionary programs.  What we have to do is develop a strategy for the Senate.  And everyone has to be sending the same message to our US senators.  Perhaps a Menino staff person can get a group from Neighbors to Neighbors citywide to develop a position paper on the programs that must be saved and why and how. Also are their savings that could be made in some of the programs?  Where and how?  We need people with expertise in each program to do concise position papers.  All hard facts.  

We know cutting discretionary federal programs will not solve our long-term budget deficit problems, because such programs are a drop in the bucket. It's Entitlements that are driving up the deficit along with huge interest payments on the national debt. And then there's unemployment.  Speaking of taxes, if you don't have a job, you can't pay taxes.  So how do we increase employment? There are no easy solutions and it is very hard to get everyone to agree to anything.  But I don't believe it is hopeless.  Even progressive people are going to have to compromise with one another!  So shall we begin? 

Comment by Igor Kharitonenkov on February 24, 2011 at 3:08pm
We're moving backwards in this country.  Instead of taking a little more tax dough from the richest 1% to make everyone better off; instead of penalizing wall street for playing games with our homes; we're going after our firefighters and police, our unions, we're going after those that have already suffered the most in this recession - people that have lost homes, communities that are already struggling.  These cuts will only increase the divide between the rich and the poor.  We're basically saying that it's more important to keep our richest citizens happy than take care of the majority of our country.  In my opinion, THAT is very unpatriotic and anti-American.
Comment by Carol T on February 24, 2011 at 1:53pm
This is a disgrace. Why is it that cuts always target the people who have the least. The wealthiest people seem to get all the breaks while others suffer homelessnes, housing cuts, and grants to help our community stay vibrant. I totally agree with the Mayor on Bill Clinton's tenure as President.

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