Poverty Politics: Sequestration Scenarios

— Mark Schmeissing, Senior Policy Analyst, NASCSP, and Brad Penney, General Counsel, NASCSP —

Last week at the NASCSP Annual Conference, much of the conversation was about the future of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). One of the major issues facing our Network is the impact of sequestration.

Sequestration and CSBG:

Sequestration includes a 5.1% across-the-board cut for CSBG and will impact the fiscal year (FY) 2013 third and fourth quarter allocations. This chart projects what your State’s third and fourth quarter allocations may look like based off two scenarios. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not decided how the allocations will reflect the 5.1% cut, so the two scenarios include an even cut across both quarters or grouping the full cut in the final quarter. This projection is an estimate that NASCSP has put together, based off FY 2012 funding levels, and may be adjusted by HHS in the coming weeks.

This chart is also based on a continuing resolution for the rest of FY 2013 that funds the CSBG at the same level as FY 2012. The House Appropriations Committee Continuing Resolution (CR) Draft that was released yesterday includes that level funding amount for CSBG at $712 million.

Sequestration and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP):

With less than a month remaining before the expiration of the current CR on March 27, two recent actions have further threatened the future sustainability of WAP. On Friday, the Sequestration provisions went into effect, in the absence of any agreement between the President and the Congress to delay the across the board cuts. We anticipate that the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will experience a 5.1% across the board cut, which will be taken against the current FY 2013 funding level of $68 million for Weatherization (that $68 million is a carryover in the CR from the FY 2012 level for WAP, which was largely dictated by the unexpended American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (Recovery Act) and regular grant funds available in FY 2012–a situation that no longer exists). We expect that the Sequestration cuts alone will reduce by more than a thousand the number of homes weatherized through DOE funding and could leave 1,200 Weatherization professionals out of a job–this is based on analysis of the energy impacts of Sequestration conducted last week by the Christian Science Monitor.

Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee published a draft of the next CR, which will last until the end of the FY 2013 on September 30. The House Appropriations Committee simply continued the funding-levels for DOE without any budget anomalies. This would fund the WAP program at the current level of $68 million through the end of the FY, which is actually higher than the abysmal $54 million level recommended by the House Appropriations Committee for WAP in FY 2013. That is meager gruel, however, for a seriously endangered program.  We are very hopeful that the Senate version of the CR will contain the budget anomaly we have requested for WAP, allowing the Senate Appropriations Committee to recommend a higher level of funding–hopefully the $145 million recommended last fall by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. We have written to all the members of the House Appropriations Committee reinforcing our argument in favor of the higher funding level for FY 2013 and the deleterious impact the continuation of $68 million will have on the program.

What’s Next?

“These are times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote in the depths of the American Revolutionary War during the winter of 1776. The present times for WAP and CSBG programs feel the same–we are hopeful of a better outcome for WAP when the CR is reported by the Senate (and then goes to conference with the House). We are also hopeful that the President will accede to the request of 37 Senators to fund the WAP program at no less than $210 million in FY 2014 when the President’s budget is released, possibly as early as later this week. On the CSBG side, we’re hopeful a CR will keep the program level-funded for another year.