“Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” Martin Luther King once spoke these words and his statement speaks to my sentiment at this moment. The Tonko/Bass Amendment to the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill has just failed in the House of Representatives. This legislation would have transferred $227 million back to state and federal weatherization and local energy programs. We, who understand the importance of WAP and its benefits to those who are struggling most in these challenging economic times, cannot help but feel it was a dark day indeed.
We have been working hard to expand on the vote of confidence WAP received earlier in the year. After strong debate, the 2011 Budget bill, sponsored by Congressman Tonko (D, NY), fell short only ten votes to obtain House support for the restoration of funding at 2010 levels. Alas, the House vote on the 2012 Tonko Amendment fell more than 60 votes short.
Losing support is never a good thing. However, we have been in the shadows before and know that, even when we cannot see a path, we can forge one. Right now, we are assessing the factors involved in these results and reevaluating our strategy. This means redoubling our efforts to clearly explain to policymakers the high points of WAP and disseminating factual information to dispel the falsehoods clouding the discussion.
Unfortunately, these appear to be dark times for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) as well. The Administration and members of Congress appear not to understand why CSBG was established or how to judge its success. As we all know, the CSBG network of Community Action Agencies (CAA) was designed so that each agency could assess the needs of its community and address those needs to the best of its abilities. Across the country, local control has meant that each agency can provide a different range of site-specific programs tailored to each individual community’s needs. While this may complicate oversight and performance review, it is one of the prime strengths of the CAA system.
So, for both WAP and CSBG, our efforts are to show policymakers the strengths and victories of these two systems. Our good stories are real and plentiful. The stars are already shining. We just need to move the clouds of misunderstanding and deceit out of the way.
by Arley Johnson