Vote marks critical step to strengthening low-income families and communitiest
On Friday, May 13, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5129, the Community Services Block Grant Modernization Act of 2021-2022 on a 246-169 vote. The bill reauthorizes the Community Services Block Grant program through FY2031 and makes important changes concerning administration and leadership. performance measurement, and minimum and maximum allotments to states, territories, and tribes. It is the first comprehensive reauthorization of this poverty-fighting legislation since 1998.
This legislation is designed to reduce poverty in the United States by supporting the activities of community action agencies and other community services network organizations that improve the economic security of low-income individuals and families and create new economic opportunities in the communities where they live.
“Poverty is a policy failure. For decades, Community Services Block Grants have ensured that local anti-poverty programs are able to meet the unique needs of their communities and help low-income individuals and families find their way out of poverty. Today, I was proud to join House Democrats in voting to increase the funding and administration support services for this grant program to ensure that every family has a fair shot at success. I’m grateful to Action for Boston Community Development for their continued advocacy and support on behalf of families and am committed to working together to get this onto President Biden’s desk,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA), Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Assistant Speaker Clark’s leadership proved crucial to the bill’s passage, and ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development) issued enthusiastic thanks to her, and underscored the critical support from the six other co-sponsors who represent Massachusetts and all the members of Congress who voted for the legislation. In addition to Congresswoman Clark, the bill’s co-sponsors from Massachusetts are Rep. James McGovern, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Lori Trahan, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, and Rep. Jake Auchincloss.
“We are deeply grateful to Assistant Speaker Clark and the other champions of economic opportunity from the Massachusetts delegation for standing with their most vulnerable constituents. These are hardworking but under-resourced families and other disenfranchised folks who deserve access to life-changing and often lifesaving programs and services,” said ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew.
History of Community Action and CSBG
Community Action originated with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty and the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Community Action Program (CAP). Through CAP, public agencies and private nonprofits called Community Action Agencies were formed to promote self-sufficiency and respond to immediate social and economic needs within their communities. In 1981, CAP and several other funding streams were consolidated into the Community Services Block Grant.
The purpose of the funding is to reduce poverty, revitalize communities, and assist low-income families and individuals in becoming self-sufficient.
CSBG: present and future
H.R. 5129 was introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) on August 31, 2021, and subsequent actions included testimony from ABCD Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq. who testified before the House Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee about the real impact of CSBG funds on behalf of ABCD and community action agencies nationwide.
The largest private nonprofit Community Action Agency in New England, ABCD assists more than 100,000 low-income residents in the Greater Boston area each year. Scott-Chandler noted in her testimony that the Community Services Block Grant is at the core of ABCD’s (and its clients’) success.
Specifically, CSBG funding provides support for 12 ABCD Neighborhood Service Centers and a core of community-based staff and programs. These are the resources “on the ground” in each neighborhood in Boston, Everett, Malden, and Medford—providing an open door to families in crisis, a comprehensive approach to the issues of poverty, and access to all of the agency’s resources.
For example, Neighborhood Service Centers operate food pantries; assist clients with applying for SNAP (food stamps) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); help green card holders apply for citizenship; facilitate workshops on computer literacy and child injury prevention; provide children’s clothing; and much more. The scope of these services is substantial. ABCD also delivers the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that helped 5000 low income taxpayers file for a refunds and returned over ten million dollars to low-income communities last year.
CSBG funding also supports ABCD’s workforce development program, as well as an innovative publicly utility-funded energy conservation program managed by ABCD. A key public-private partnership that was launched with CSBG support, the program now involves Community Action Agencies across the state of Massachusetts—providing leading-edge heating system replacement, renewable energy resources, and weatherization to thousands of households annually.
In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, CSBG funding, including resources made available through the CARES Act, made it possible for ABCD to respond quickly and effectively. The organization formed a coalition of 20 partner agencies to coordinate food distribution, rental assistance, and specialized services for elders, teens, and homeless individuals.
The Community Services Block Grant, CSBG, ensures local leadership and a clear focus on economic opportunity. Its flexible structure promotes innovation and leveraging of other resources—both public and private—allowing each community to develop unique solutions to fit local needs. Finally, it ensures a high level of accountability for each Community Action Agency through outcomes-based performance management.
The Community Services Block Grant Modernization Act moves on to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development) is Greater Boston’s anti-poverty agency. A nonprofit community action agency, ABCD provides under-resourced residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support, and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, the organization serves more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For 60 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in each neighborhood it serves, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.
CONTACT Lee Phenner