The Administration, CSBG, and the Next Four Years

–Timothy R. Warfield, Executive Director, NASCSP–

As we approach the second inauguration of President Obama and head into a critically important year for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), I want to give you my perspective on the Administration’s concerns and the requests they’ve made of us.

The Administration has clearly expressed that they want to fund initiatives that are flexible, accountable, and can demonstrate substantial impact on their key priority areas; healthcare, employment, energy, and education. Even amidst difficult spending cuts, the President’s budget shows evidence of interest in actually increasing funding for anti-poverty initiatives. However, the Administration has also made it clear that it perceives CSBG as it stands to be exclusive, outdated, and inflexible.

Congress and the Administration want substantive changes to the legislation that will bring CSBG into the 21st century. They’ve invited NASCSP to propose the exact shape and scope of these changes. We have a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion on how to improve and strengthen our Network. We now have the opportunity to propose our own version of the substantial changes that the Administration and Congress require. If we’re too slow to respond, though, we won’t be part of the conversation. As it happens, time is running out.

This week, the CSBG board leadership will meet to discuss NASCSP’s CSBG Reauthorization position and its response to the Administration. I look forward to supporting the board in this discussion and helping them set the vision for NASCSP’s role in the Administration’s next four years.

From my conversations with the Administration, I believe that our proposal back to them needs to effectively address their four key concerns:

  • Standards for organizational performance,
  • Entitlement vs. competition,
  • Effectiveness at ending poverty, and
  • The discipline of success and failure (or how to decide what to take to scale and what to abandon).

In the next few days, I’ll post more about my vision for our proposal to the Administration. By seriously and substantively addressing the Administration’s concerns, I believe we will both strengthen the CSBG Network and ensure that Community Action will continue. Most important, though, we’ll increase our effectiveness at achieving our goal of ending poverty.