Area advocates worry about sequestration effect on regional non-profits

Feb 19, 2013

The automatic federal budget cuts that are slated to go into effect in March would have a big impact on programs that help the poor and elderly in Syracuse.  Advocates for these programs are urging Congress to do something to prevent the across-the-board spending cuts knows as sequestration.

Dozens of non-profit groups in central New York depend on Community Development Block Grants (CDGB) for part of their operating expenses.  Sharon Sherman of the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network says many can't afford the 10 percent cut that's called for in the sequestration agreement.  

 "It funds the three community centers in Syracuse, the Southwest Community Center, the Northeast Community Center, the Westcott community center gets program funds, not operational, but the two other centers, part of their operating budget every single year, is CDGB," said Sherman. "And that has decreased so much since the '90s that it's very difficult to operate."

Sherman says, for example, the staff at the Northeast Community Center has been whittled down to one person, the executive director.  Advocates are sending letters to lawmakers asking  that they support progressive budget principles and prevent more cuts in social programs. Sherman says these grants have been devastated in recent years, so she would like to see funding levels at least remain the same.
        
"It's not like these programs have been growing in the last few years.  People have been struggling to live with the existing programs the way they are," said Sherman.

She and other advocates are sending letters to federal lawmakers asking that they consider adopting progressive budget principles to keep money flowing to these agencies. But unless Congress and the president come to agreement on how to cut the budget, the automatic sequestration cuts, including to these grants, will go into effect March 1.