Legislative Update: December 2011

By Brad Penney

Well it’s the last month of the year and it certainly has been a volatile legislative session. We’ve witnessed government pushed to the brink of shutting down on several occasions and, as of this writing, important legislative items dealing with unemployment compensation and tax increases on all working people hang in the balance.

After skirting the possibility of a partial government shutdown in mid-December, the Congress surprisingly passed a trillion dollar Omnibus spending bill that funded nine of the eleven regular appropriations bills for FY 2012. This bill contained both good and bad news for our programs. On the positive side, the CSBG Act will be funded at $713.63 million for FY 2012. This amount includes $34.99 million for Economic Development and Rural Community Facilities programs and does not take into account a 0.189% across-the-board cut in the Labor/HHS portion of the bill. Following the formula in the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Act, the final amounts will be $662.8 million (-0.23%) for the States and Tribes and $3.6 million (+1.52%) for the Territories. We are pleased at this outcome, given the Administration’s FY 2012 recommendation of a 50% cut in funding for CSBG. FY 2013 promises to be another major battle to keep CSBG funded at or near present levels.

On the negative side, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) will be funded at $68 million for FY 2012, which includes $3 million for Training and Technical Assistance for the Department of Energy Headquarters. This is the lowest funding level since 1978, the year after the program’s inception in 1977. We are very disappointed in this outcome and NASCSP will continue to work hard to see that this program receives sustainable funding into the future. The Weatherization Network continues to exceed its goals and we must continue to educate our legislators on the value of the program. We are working right now with our coalition allies to persuade the Administration to submit a request of no less than $225M for WAP in FY 2013.

Next year looks like a continuation of the ongoing battle to keep low-income programs from being defunded. Pressures will kick in from the automatic sequestration provisions of the Congressional Budget Act, given the failure this fall of the so-called “Super Committee.” We will need your help and activism to keep these programs alive in 2012!