The budget crunch in Washington may soon be felt locally with the Obama Administration’s proposed cuts to social programs.
On the chopping block are grants that help fund food banks and housing programs that will be cut in half if the budget proposal passes.
Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action is the local organization that provides these social services, and has been holding a series of town hall meetings throughout the area to discuss the proposed cuts and their implications. The meetings will also offer suggestions for action to those who want to speak up for these services.
“Congress needs to hear why these services are important to our community, and what will happen to people in the current economic crisis if their safety net is eliminated,” Jane McDonald, IMACA’s community services director, stated in a press release.
According to IMACA, it has received a record number of applications for its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which assists seniors, the disabled and others in need during the winter months.
The LIHEAP program consists of weatherization of homes for energy conservation and efficiency as well as supplying fuel for heat, be it wood, propane, electricity, etc., McDonald explained.
IMACA expects it will not be able to meet all of these demands with an ever-shrinking budget for 2011. The administration’s proposal is to cut funds to these services by one-third, meaning that “hundreds of local families could be without a dependable source of heat” in 2011, McDonald noted.
McDonald explained that if the budget is cut by one-third, then one-third less people will be able to receive assistance.
Jacob Lew, the White House budget director, listed some of the programs slated to be cut, and explained why, in an Op-ed piece in The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2011.
He said that funding community service block grants that go to “grassroots groups working in poor communities, dedicated to empowering those living there and helping them with some of life’s basic necessities” will be cut in half. Lew added that these are the same organizations that Barack Obama worked with as a community organizer, “so this cut is not easy for him.”
Lew also explained that the grants have no built-in accountability, or proof from a recipient that the dollars are being effective. So, Lew explained, the president is proposing that in the future the remaining grants will be awarded in a highly competitive process.
The press release from IMACA explains that community services block grant funding is the “glue” that allows the organization to be a single entity and run its food bank and housing programs.
There is also a proposed $300 million cut to Community Development Block Grants that are used by cities and counties to pay for infrastructure projects and economic development.
Lew said in his Op-ed that the administration is well aware of the financial struggle many municipalities are currently enduring, but, he said, “the sacrifices needed to begin putting our fiscal house in order must be broadly shared.”
Town hall meetings are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Tecopa Community Center, at 10 a.m. tomorrow outside the IMACA trailer in Darwin, and two meetings will be held at Statham Hall in Lone Pine at 1:30 and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16.
A report of the meetings, what was said and what was suggested will be published in The Inyo Register following the meetings in Lone Pine.
For more information, call IMACA toll-free at (800) 541-1822 or (760) 873-8557.
McDonald suggests that those wishing to voice their concerns over the cuts and what impact the cuts may have on those in need should contact an elected official:
• Governor: Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814. Phone: (916) 445-2841.
• Senator: Jean Fuller, 18th Senate District, State Capitol Room 3063, Sacramento, CA 95814. Phone: (916) 651-4018. FAX: (916) 322-3304.
• Assemblyman: Connie Conway, 34th Assembly District, 113 N. Church St., Suite 504 & 505, Visalia, CA, 93291. Phone: (559) 636-3440. FAX: (559) 636-4484. Sacramento phone: (916) 319-2034
• Senator: Barbara Boxer, 1700 Montgomery Street, Suite 240, San Francisco, CA, 94111. Phone: (415) 403-0100. E-mail: email@example.com 
• Senator: Dianne Feinstein, 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Constitution Ave. and 2nd St. NE, Washington, D.C., 20510-0504. Phone: (202) 224-3841; OR One Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco, CA 94104. Phone: (415) 393-0707.FAX: (415) 393-0710. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Website: www.feinstein.senate.gov .
• Representative: Buck McKeon, 25th Congressional District, 22242 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C., 20515. Locally: 1008 W. Ave M-14 #E-1, Palmdale, CA, 93551. Phone: (800) 565-4333. FAX: (661) 274-8744.
• President: Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Comment Line: (202) 456-1111.