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Bob Goodlatte made the case in 1996 to GOP leaders for federal funding of the nonprofit. A bipartisan threat demands his help once more.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Rep. Bob Goodlatte must have felt a bit intimidated in 1996 when he paid a visit to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s office.
In his second term, Goodlatte was a newcomer to the U.S. Capitol. The conservative Republican was making a plea for community action agencies, which serve low-income people, not a top priority of the speaker as the leader of a new GOP majority in the House of Representatives.
But Goodlatte made a persuasive case that day, and House Republicans supported increased funding for the nonprofit groups, including the Roanoke Valley’s Total Action Against Poverty, now known as Total Action for Progress.
Goodlatte regularly mentions his intervention with Gingrich, most recently in a letter he wrote to TAP founder Cabell Brand on his 90th birthday this month. And the congressman remains sympathetic to the organization’s mission.
“Instead of a top-down, big government knows best approach, I believe local communities and states, through programs like TAP, are best able to determine how to use these resources and provide valuable services to the least fortunate in our neighborhoods,” he said in an email this week.
And he favors programs that embody the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
But even the act of teaching such life skills requires public support, and once again TAP needs the help of Goodlatte and his colleagues.
TAP leaders announced last week that the nonprofit must cut $775,000 of its $18 million budget due to automatic reductions in federal spending under sequestration. Three Head Start classrooms will be shuttered, affecting about 100 low-income children. Employment training, housing and financial services also will be scaled back. In total, about 760 people will lose access to programs that help them to become self-sufficient.
The pain is likely to get much worse. President Obama’s recent budget proposal would cut funding for Community Services Block Grants in half.
“Poor people don’t have any constituency,” said Brand in an interview this week. “There’s just nobody around championing the poor, including right now even President Obama.”
Goodlatte cannot, of course, persuade Obama to revise his budget. That task belongs on the to-do lists of Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
But the threats to TAP’s budget are bipartisan. Recent House GOP budget proposals would have virtually eliminated funding for community action agencies.
Goodlatte can be a strong Republican voice in support of the nonprofits. He is in a far better position today than he was in 1996 to soften the financial damages being inflicted on TAP and to ward off future budget cuts.
The 6th District congressman is in his 11th term and has been promoted to chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He can make good use of that seniority and power by tapping on House Speaker John Boehner’s door to make another plea for TAP.
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