CAO Planning Director Bill Thacker said at least 14,000 people in Scioto County received one or more services from the agency in 2010.
The agency has suffered major funding reductions in a continuing resolution passed earlier this year by Congress; extending a federal budget with $4 billion in cuts through March 18.
“We also have some concerns about Fiscal Year 2012, and particularly the president’s budget,” Thacker said. “Right now we’re looking at 11 local programs in jeopardy. Everything ranging from the WIC program to the USDA reimbursement to our Head Start and senior nutrition feeding programs. And basically three of the programs could be zeroed out completely.”
The three programs in the most danger are the weatherization program, the Workforce Investment Act, and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Thacker warns that they could all be eliminated by July 1.
“What the House Appropriations Committee has recommended is a cut of $305 million, down from $700 million, which was originally allocated. That would effectively zero that (CSBG) out by the end of March,” he said.
The Home Weatherization Program helped more than 500 families last year, by sealing and insulating houses, and repairing or replacing unsafe and inefficient heating units. The program also provides a comprehensive energy audit to show clients ways they can lower their fuel cost and save even more money.
“Energy-efficiency savings are something that benefits everybody. We’re talking about finite fossil fuels being used for the most part to heat homes, and the less we use on that the less dependent we are on foreign oil and other fossil fuels. It’s a great service to the individual resident, and a service to the community as a whole,” Thacker said.
The Workforce Investment Act is CAO’s entire employment training program, which provided training to nearly 2,500 unemployed or under-employed residents in 2010. To this federal program, there are proposed cuts of $1.4 billion before Sept. 30.
“We’re concerned about all the programs and we’re making plans to absorb cuts and accommodate whatever is going to shake out ultimately, but if there’s a first among equals, it’s the Community Services Block Grant,” Thacker said.
He said CSBG is very small compared to the others — only $390,000 a year — but it is what allows the CAO’s board of local trustees to help the community in ways they find unique to their region.
“Virtually everything else is targeted to a specific population or a specific type of service, and you stay within those parameters. But with CSBG we have the flexibility to meet locally changing needs and emergency needs. We use that money to supplement our medical clinic, and in the past we have done the same thing with our dental clinic. It also helps the entire social services operation, ranging from home energy assistance program and referral of emergency services,” Thacker said.
Last year, they provided heating bill assistance through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to nearly 4,500 households; treated more than 6,000 patients from the CAO Primary Health Care Clinic and the Center for Dental Wellness; and delivered hot meals to more than 500 senior citizens.
The agency is comprised of 202 local employees and employed an additional 254 disadvantaged youth through its summer employment program, for a total 2010 payroll of $6.4 million.
“We look at ourselves as an economic development venture in itself. That’s secondary to the services we provide, but it’s real important in terms of jobs generation and money flowing through our economy everyday,” Thacker said.
Bob Walton Sr., vice chairman of the Southern Ohio Port Authority, said if it wasn’t for CSBG funding, SOPA would not have been able to negotiate with the recently announced Infra-Metals steel distribution plant bringing 100 jobs to New Boston.
Thacker acknowledged the need for everyone to play a part, even CAO, and accept some amount of funding reduction, but he said the currently proposed plan goes too far and unfairly targets mostly low-income residents.
During a meeting of the New Boston Village Council on Tuesday, members of council voted unanimously to pass a resolution in support of CAO and what it contributes to Scioto County. That resolution will be sent to state and federal representatives, and similar resolutions have been asked of the Scioto County Commissioners and Portsmouth City Council.
For more information about Community Action of Scioto County, and its programs available in our area, visit www.caosciotocounty.org.