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The Roanoke nonprofit with ties to the Great Society push of the 1960s could see additional cuts under President Barack Obama's budget proposal.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Children enrolled in Head Start, domestic violence victims and homeless veterans are among the people who will be adversely affected when Total Action for Progress cuts $775,000 from its budget, TAP President and CEO Ted Edlich said Friday.
The Roanoke nonprofit that assists low-income people is losing money because of the federal government’s 5 percent sequestration cuts that went into effect when Congress could not finalize a budget deal last month. The federal cuts mean TAP will receive less money from sources such as Community Development Block Grants and municipalities.
Additionally, TAP could lose more money from its budget if President Barack Obama’s recent budget proposals are passed, Edlich said.
“This is a cutback on the commitment to social justice and a step back to the commitment of the least of these among us,” Edlich said during a morning news conference at TAP’s downtown headquarters. The phrase “least of these” comes from Matthew 25:40, part of Jesus’s parable about helping the needy.
TAP employs about 350 people, but has reduced its staff over the years through attrition and by cutting some positions. The agency has an annual budget of about $18 million, $15.5 million of which comes from federal funds, either directly or passed through the state.
TAP was founded as Total Action Against Poverty in 1965, a year after President Lyndon Johnson rolled out the federal government’s “War on Poverty.” Salem businessman Cabell Brand founded the nonprofit, which continues to administer such programs such as Head Start, the Child Health Investment Project, the Virginia CARES re-entry program for ex-offenders and the Virginia Water Project.
Edlich said that about 760 people will lose TAP assistance because of the sequester cuts. Last year, the agency worked with nearly 6,000 people.
Edlich provided a list of 20 programs that will reduce services, and he particularly emphasized cuts to the Head Start program, which provides early education opportunities for low-income children.
Head Start will lose $450,000 and will be forced to close three classrooms, which will affect about 100 children. The staffs in those classrooms could lose their jobs.
TAP’s employment, training, housing and financial services programs also will be curtailed.
Pamela Borders, whose children attended Head Start, was one of several people who provided personal testimonials about TAP’s services during the news conference.
“Sometimes people might look negatively at the Head Start program because it is for low-income families,” Borders said. “That doesn’t mean they should receive less of an education than someone in a higher income bracket.”
She said that if not for Head Start, she would not be able to work, because she could not afford child care.
Dyan Gaston-Grant credited Head Start with helping her oldest daughter become a straight-A student and for helping her find help for her 3-year-old son with speech problems.
Brian O’Sullivan said that he had battled depression, been homeless and had attempted suicide before joining TAP’s Transitional Living Center. Now, the former professional actor with a master’s degree is living on his own with his fiancee .
“It’s a mobile home, but it’s the greatest place in the world,” he said.
Shawn Dingle told how Virginia CARES helped him earn a small-business license in heating and air conditioning after several stints in jail. Malcolm Davis, who described himself as a nine-year military veteran, had been homeless until TAP helped him land a job. A woman who gave her name only as Lucy credited TAP with getting her out of two abusive relationships and getting her off drugs.
Edlich detailed other cuts that have already happened. TAP will not have money to maintain its “foster grandparent” program, which pays stipends to seniors who serve in Head Start classrooms. The agency has also notified the Department of Housing and Urban Development that HUD’s funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program is insufficient and that TAP will no longer run the program.
Edlich said that the president’s budget proposal would also hurt TAP by cutting Community Services Block Grants in half, not spending enough on weatherization projects and cutting $450 million from the Low Income Home Energy Program.
Edlich said that Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, has been a strong supporter of the block grants because localities have control over how they are used. Edlich added that he expects Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine will support restoring funding to the block grants.
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