Guest Column: Urgent action needed to save federal YouthBuild funding

March 2, 2011

Editor’s note: The following e-mail, distributed Feb. 25, is presented here in support of Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc., (CCS) and YouthBuild Rockford.

CCS is a nonprofit, tax-exempt agency founded in 1992. Its premier program, YouthBuild Rockford, is a youth community development program serving 16- to 24-year-olds who didn’t graduate from high school. Young people earn their GED, are trained in construction, and build or renovate low-income housing. Visit youthbuildrockford.org for more information.

Dear Friends of YouthBuild,

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would eliminate the entire YouthBuild program from the U.S. Department of Labor. (The bill is H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution establishing the full federal budget for FY’11.)

H.R. 1 also eliminated all national service programs such as AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps. It eliminated most job training programs. It drastically cut back community-based health care, child nutrition programs, mentoring programs, after-school programs, and the whole array of community economic development initiatives that give poor people a pathway out of poverty. Through amendments, it also diminished regulations to protect the environment and to prevent for-profit colleges from predatory lending with low-income students, and prevented any spending on the health care reform passed last year. And much more (link to full list below).

People who disagree with these decisions need to go into action. We need to let our elected officials know this is really not what most voters want. We understand the deficit is important, but there are many ways to close it. This focus on discretionery domestic funding is incomplete.

The Senate will be deciding next week how to respond to the House bill. Senators need to get the message that their constituents will support those officials who stand up for critical programs benefitting low-income people and protecting the planet.

IMMEDIATE ACTION STEPS YOU CAN TAKE:

1. CALL THE LOCAL OFFICES OF BOTH YOUR SENATORS. (Go to www.congress.org and enter your ZIP code to find out their contact information.) Your senators need to hear from you immediately. Please tell them not to support H.R. 1 that will decimate the opportunity structure for low-income people and will kill jobs in the nonprofit and public sectors.

Please mention YouthBuild along with any other points you want to make.

2. SIGN THE PETITION FOR YOUTHBUILD. Visit http://www.change.org/petitions/save-youthbuild-act-now-2. YouthBuildAlumni have organized a petition and will be grateful for all the help they can get.

3. MOBILIZE YOUR NETWORKS. Everyone needs to weigh in. We have about four weeks to save the things that matter to us.

4. SIGN UP FOR NATIONAL SERVICE DISTRICT DAY. The National Service Movement is mobilizing to visit in large numbers all the offices where it has constituency on Friday, Feb. 25.

5. JOIN THE SAVE for ALL CAMPAIGN led by the Coalition for Human Needs. If you have an organization that can sign on, this group is fighting for an overall reasoned approach to balancing the budget. Its policy paper is linked here—http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/125/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5703. You are undoubtedly getting lots of e-mails from specific causes. SAVE for All is focused on the overall big picture.

6. CALL YOUR HOUSE MEMBER: Although the House has already passed this bill, over the next weeks, there will be more action. Supporters of H.R. 1 will be more likely to compromise later if they have heard from constituents.

Tell those who voted for H.R. 1 what you really want them to do regarding jobs, budget balancing, creating an opportunity structure for people to climb out of poverty, and funding quality human service programs.

In summary: the situation is complex; there is a lot at stake on many fronts. YouthBuild is a small, but important, part of a bigger picture, and we need to work on many fronts simultaneously. Please help.

Yours,

Dorothy Stoneman
President and Founder, YouthBuild USA

Resources

The full list of House cuts: http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/ProgramCutsFY2011ContinuingResolution.pdf

Some talking points when you call, in case you need them.

• The House budget for 2011 will be damaging to America. It will decimate vital services in our communities when millions of Americans need food, shelter, health care, job training and educational support. We need a more balanced approach to balancing the budget.

• In particular, please ensure funding for the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program. It breaks the cycle of poverty for high school dropouts. It reconnects them to education, employment, a supportive community, and family responsibility. It should be expanded, not cut. The high school dropout rate in America is at crisis levels. Those same young people are lining up outside the doors of YouthBuild programs seeking a hands-on education that will put them back on track for a productive life. Last year, 18,600 were turned away for lack of funds. Research shows that every dollar spent on a YouthBuild student returns a minimum of $7.80 in value over the lifetime of that student; and if the student has been court-involved, the minimum is $10.90.

• I also urge you to ensure funding for national service. Communities are counting on AmeriCorps members, VISTA, Senior Corps, and other national service participants and community volunteers to meet the increased demand for services. For Americans who are struggling to find work, national service programs offer a subsistence-level stipend, develop skills and create pathways to future employment.

• Overall, the CR will push unemployment rates up, decimating important parts of the nonprofit sector. Hundreds and probably thousands of community-based nonprofit organizations are likely to shut down in the communities that need them most.

From the March 2-8, 2011, issue

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