We have been proud to lead an AmeriCorps VISTA program in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service for more than a decade. In that time more than 400 national service members have spent a year working full time on projects that fight hunger and poverty in local communities. Right now we have members working on everything from fundraising to install new irrigation systems for community gardens, to developing and implementing year-round nutrition education programming for low-income families, to mapping food deserts and social service capacity for an entire county.
Our members are fostering real change and making big impacts, and they’re doing it in exchange for a living allowance of about $970 per month and an education award that helps them pay down student debt or go back to school. AmeriCorps is a longstanding bipartisan approach to making modest investments in local communities that generate lasting results. We strongly object to the administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The budget blueprint also proposes eliminating key programs in the Office of Community Services. In Ohio more than 400,000 low-income households would lose one-time yearly payments that help with heating their homes due to the elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In real terms that means that hundreds of thousands of low-income families and seniors may face having their utilities shut off in the coldest winter months.
Unfortunately the budget also would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, which is the core funding for Community Action Agencies. Those agencies are, in many cases, one of the few places left in rural Ohio where low-income Ohioans can turn for basic help with food, shelter and other resources.
This proposal is an attack on core American values. It disinvests in programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and the Senior Community Services Employment Program, which empower people to better themselves and their communities. It puts more than 400,000 Ohio households — nearly nine in 10 of which contain either elderly or disabled individuals or children under 5 — at risk of literally being left out in the cold.
We encourage Congress to firmly reject this approach to balancing the budget and funding defense spending on the backs of the poor.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks
Published: March 20, 2017