Budget Choices: You Decide

Written by Kathryn Hoffman

SNAP Outreach Coordinator, Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania

 
The new Administration’s “Better Way Tax Plan” would deliver big tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. For example, according to the Economic Policy Center, and the Tax Policy Center, millionaires and multi-millionaires would get to keep, on average, $302,000 more in their after-tax incomes by 2025. And those making less than $25,000 a year would get an average tax cut of fifty dollars. No households in the bottom 95% would see an average tax cut larger than $410, and some would see their taxes go up.

This actually is a complete reversal on the campaign pledge the President made that his tax decisions would benefit American workers and families, and what his Secretary of the Treasury promised, that there would be “no absolute tax cut for the upper class.”

In contrast, consider the Administration’s plan to cut a program that benefits Community Action agencies all over the nation. That program, the Community Services Block Grant, or CSBG, helped over 15 million low-income Americans last year. This planned cut illustrates the choices embedded in the proposed budget, which Congress will study, and vote up or down or alter, so that the U.S. fiscal year is funded. The CSBG grant program has been around since Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Federal CSBG funds are now awarded to all 50 states, to D.C., and to several U.S. territories, to provide services that address poverty, and help people achieve self-sufficiency.

Over 1,000 Community Action Agencies, including ours, get CSBG funds that help support job training, preventative health, education, nutrition and housing services. In the case of CACLV, all of our federal funding would be zeroed out in this proposed budget. That means that Sixth Street Shelter, Second Harvest Food Bank, small business assistance and loans, foreclosure assistance, and home-ownership counseling, weatherization, neighborhood revitalization, housing rehab and more would likely be shut down.

By all measures, CSBG is a good investment of our public funds: In our case, for every $1.00 of CSBG funding spent, CACLV is able to generate $16 from other sources. Why would we abandon this effective anti-poverty effort, turning our backs on neighbors who need help?

So, I will let you be the judge. CSBG grants are deleted from the President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18. That may be just 6% of our CACLV budget, but it is vital to attract other funds that pay for our programs to benefit local lower-income families. Which expense (because cutting taxes is “an expense” in a budget that comes from Americans paying taxes) is the one you would pick to keep?

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