Opinion: Federal cuts could eliminate St. Lawrence County Community Development Program, director says
Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 8:09 am

To the Editor:

St. Lawrence County Community Development Program – CDP – has provided services to the families in St. Lawrence Country who have low incomes for 52 years.

President Trump has proposed a budget for 2018 that eliminates or cuts funding for all of CDP’s programs. President Trump has eliminated funding for the Weatherization Program as well as the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) altogether. The CSBG is used in the operation of CDP’s Neighborhood Centers that are located throughout the county. There is a 3-5 year waiting list for the program depending on funding. The 2017-18 contract is projected at $140,000 less than the one being completed. The Neighborhood Centers served over 1,300 families in the 2016 fiscal year by providing food and assistance with emergency situations such as power disconnects and evictions.

The Centers also worked with families on family development which includes job skills, job search, budgeting and healthy nutrition.

LIHEAP (HEAP funding) has also been eliminated from the 2018 budget. Although CDP does not run the HEAP program, the families that CDP serves will be drastically impacted by this cut. HEAP serves a large number of senior citizens along with disabled individuals in St. Lawrence County. As of March 22, Housing Choice Voucher Program in St. Lawrence County has already had the number of vouchers it receives cut by 55 vouchers. There is a waiting list of 1,955 families waiting to receive assistance. Head Start has not been informed as to their funding levels – only that there will be cuts. Over 350 children and their families participate in the Head Start program in St. Lawrence County where the children receive comprehensive services that include school readiness. Agency-wide, over 7,800 individuals benefited from CDP’s services in St. Lawrence County during 2016.

CDP staff sees first hand how these resources alleviate the financial burden brought on by underemployment, high utility expenses and ever-rising food, housing and energy costs. They also see the changes that take place in families and how the programs lend to more stability in families. CDP’s programs, coupled with ongoing case management and goal setting, are the key to preventing homelessness, hunger and unaddressed medical conditions.

They help lift families out of poverty and move toward self-sufficiency. The majority of the families served were two parent households with some form of employment dispelling many beliefs about families who are low income.

President Trump’s budget also proposes additional cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the administration of Head Start. Funding reductions could make funding levels the lowest in nearly two decades for Head Start, leaving children and their families without programming.

Block Grant funding to be restored at its current national level of $715 million; Weatherization at $215 and LIHEAP at $3.34 billion. CDP is also calling for Head Start to be funded at its current level including cost of living adjustments as well as keeping it administered at the federal level and not to be block granted to individual states

Norma Carey

St. Lawrence County Community Development Program executive director