Connecticut’s Community Action Agencies, the state and federally designated antipoverty agencies covering every city and town in Connecticut, are dealing with a devastating cut in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed FY 2016-2017 biennial budget.

For the first time ever, the governor is proposing to completely eliminate Human Services Infrastructure (HSI) funding, the “core” funding for the action agencies, from the budget.  Community Action Agencies provide basic needs services such as food, shelter, heating assistance, and child care to the state’s low- and moderate-income communities in all of our 169 cities and towns.

They are able to do so by utilizing a multigenerational, customer-focused, integrated human service delivery system called HSI.  This holistic and accountable approach is proven to effectively equip families with job skills and other tools they need to achieve long-term economic security.

Connecticut’s CAAs provide cost-efficient and cost-effective services across all state agencies, and HSI funds are critical for our network to continue to provide basic services in our communities. The proposed elimination of $3.4 million in HSI funds will actually mean a direct cut of almost $5 million in services to low-income families, since these funds are used as a match for federal funds.

This devastating cut will severely impact our ability to help Connecticut’s families when they need us most, leaving our state’s most vulnerable residents behind in the process.

The following statistics show us that protecting HSI funding is more important today than it has ever been:

  • According to the most recent U.S. Census poverty data estimates, the poverty rate in Connecticut in 2013 was 10.7 percent, up from 9.4 percent in 2009 when the recession ended.
  • The data paints an even darker picture for our state’s youngest residents―14.3 percent of our children lived in poverty in 2013, up from 11.9 percent in 2009.
  • What’s more, Connecticut is more unequal now than ever. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the top 1 percent of Connecticut taxpayers earns nearly 51 times what the average of the other 99 percent do―ranking our state first in income inequality in the nation.

These startling figures reveal this unfortunate truth: though the recession ended nearly six years ago, many of Connecticut’s residents are still struggling to emerge and recover from the Great Recession.

During these tough economic times, Connecticut’s CAAs have and continue to be there for individuals and families facing hardship.  In the last annual reporting period, our Community Action Network served over 365,000 people in need.  Of those, 69,000 were in the 55 + age range with an additional 5,540 more seniors than in the previous year.

Of the 29,200 who have a 24 year college degree, an additional 3,300 customers came to us during the year with those credentials.  These statistics go to show that our agencies are seeing people who have never asked for assistance before as well as those who are still feeling the impact of the recession.

The unfortunate reality is this: every day, we continue to lose our middle class as more individuals and families struggle to survive.

We need to continue to fund smart investments in a human service delivery system that helps people participate in the economy and build better lives for themselves, and HSI is definitely such an investment.  Last year, for every dollar of HSI funds, nearly $100 dollars was leveraged for programs to help Connecticut families and communities.

Surely that’s an investment and commitment worth keeping.

As a network we are deeply committed to empowering people and building communities, and these efforts have never been more necessary than they are today.  We need a commitment―and we need one now―from our elected leaders at every level across the state to protect and preserve HSI funding.

Connecticut’s families and our local communities are more than worth it.

Edith Pollock Karsky is Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, Connecticut’s statewide network of antipoverty agencies.

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