The state Capitol in Hartford

Once again, critical funding for the state’s low-income individuals and families is on the chopping block.  Connecticut’s Community Action Agency (CAA) Network is advocating to Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature to protect and preserve Human Services Infrastructure (HSI) funding, the “core” funding for CAAs, from being cut in the FY 2016-2017 biennial budget.

Community Action Agencies (CAAs), the state and federal designated antipoverty agencies, provide cost efficient and cost-effective basic human needs services such as food, shelter, heating assistance, and child care to the state’s low- and moderate-income communities in all 169 cities and towns.  CAAs utilize 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, tools, and opportunities to achieve long-term economic security.  Cutting HSI funds in any way will severely impact our network’s ability to help Connecticut’s most vulnerable and at-risk families when they need us most―leaving them without the support they need to thrive.

The reality is this: our agencies simply cannot afford any more cuts.  HSI funding was already cut during previous budget negotiations, and rising income inequality continues to plague our state―shrinking the middle class and creating an even deeper divide between the top 1 percent of taxpayers and the remaining 99.

These challenges and repeated rescissions are making it increasingly harder to do business and provide services to Connecticut residents.  As a state, we need to continue to fund smart investments in a human service delivery system like HSI that not only gives everyone the opportunity to participate in the economy and build better lives for themselves, but one that works with the state, municipalities, communities, and other human needs organizations to bring progress and shared prosperity to those that need it most.

As a network, we are deeply committed to empowering people in need and improving the communities in which they live.  During these tough economic times, Connecticut’s CAAs have and continue to be there for individuals and families facing financial hardship.  Last year, Community Action Agencies served over 347,000 people in need statewide.  Our agencies are well-known and trusted in their communities, and are there for those who have nowhere else to turn.  If HSI funds are cut and they cannot come to us, where will they go?

We need a commitment from elected officials at every level across the state to protect and preserve HSI funding.   If analysts are correct and our economy continues to decline, we can only imagine how many more struggling children, families, and seniors will come through our doors in 2015 and 2016.  Shifting the burden back on them by cutting funding to crucial programs and services they need is not the answer to Connecticut’s budget woes.  We must find other solutions.

Connecticut’s families and our local communities deserve a chance to succeed, and our Community Action Network can help them pave the way.

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

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