As discussions and negotiations begin around the FY 2016-2017 midterm budget adjustments this legislative session, it is critical that the state continue its deep-seated commitment to Connecticut’s Community Action Agency (CAA) Network and antipoverty efforts.

For more than 50 years, Connecticut’s CAAs, the state and federal designated antipoverty agencies, have provided basic human needs services such as food, shelter, heating assistance, and childcare to limited income individuals and families in all 169 cities and towns.  As Connecticut’s officially recognized antipoverty network and as the individual agencies serving as the front line for regional human services, CAAs have a history of effective and efficient service delivery. They also hold themselves accountable for results through the use of a Results Based Accountability (RBA) framework, a data reporting method that enables agencies to track and measure meaningful customer, agency, and community outcomes – ensuring a positive return on investment for the network and our state.

Since the authorization of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) in 1981, CAAs have operated under a federal block grant structure.  To enhance and support this federal effort and the network’s ability to help at-risk and vulnerable populations across Connecticut, the state created a separate line item in the budget back in 1982 and committed itself to work with CAAs in their antipoverty efforts.

In 2007, the name of the line item was changed from Human Resource Development (HRD) to the Human Services Infrastructure (HSI)-Community Action Program (CAP).  This multigenerational, customer focused, integrated human service delivery approach helps Community Action Agencies address the complex causes of poverty and equip individuals and families with job skills, tools, and resources to achieve short and long-term economic security.

The Connecticut Association for Community Action (CAFCA), the umbrella organization for Connecticut’s ten CAAs, is deeply committed to strengthening the capacity of our member agencies to help them empower people in need and improve the communities in which they live.  Last year, our CAAs served over 347,000 people in need statewide in a number of ways: more than 141,600 households avoided crises with energy assistance; over 8,200 people obtained and/or maintained safe and affordable housing; nearly 9,000 children participated in preschool activities and demonstrated improvement in school readiness skills; over 43,500 seniors remained active in their communities by participating in community programs; and, more than 12,700 people engaged in services that allowed them to obtain skills and competencies that resulted in obtaining or maintaining employment.

In his budget address, Gov. Dannel Malloy talked about protecting the public, ensuring a social safety net, and building a strong economy.  Our Community Action Agency Network does just that.

We help protect people facing financial struggles from falling into poverty by connecting them with programs and services that meet their needs.  We are the safety net for many in our communities, and are well-known and trusted by those we serve.  And, we provide people with support―enabling them to thrive and become contributing members of the economy.

The bottom line is this: Connecticut’s Community Action Agencies help families and the state solve problems, avoid crises, and save money.  Eliminating HSI-CAP, the “core funding” for Community Action Agencies, will severely threaten our network’s ability to provide cost-efficient and cost-effective services to our most vulnerable residents.  The state and elected officials must continue their commitment to Community Action and to antipoverty efforts that work.

In this richest state in the country, Connecticut’s neediest families deserve it.

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

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