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April 16, 2003
Immediate Action Needed
Action Needed to Build on Momentum for Increased Funding for the Social Services Block Grant
On April 9, prior to a two-week congressional recess, the U.S. Senate passed the CARE Act (S. 476) which included $1.4 billion in additional funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). This two week recess is a good time for you to call or visit your U.S. Representative and Senators to urge them to pass legislation this year that increases funding for SSBG. Congress will return to Washington on April 28.
Call or visit your members of Congress. Ask them to support increased funding for the Social Services Block Grant. You can reach all Congressional offices in DC through the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121.
- Tell your U.S. Representative to include increased SSBG funding in the CARE Act.
- Tell your U.S. Senators to make sure that increased SSBG funding is included in any final version of the CARE Act.
On April 9, the U.S. Senate passed a version of the President's initiative to encourage charitable giving and support faith-based organizations by a vote of 95 to five. That legislation, the CARE Act (S. 476), includes a $1.375 billion increase in funding for SSBG to be implemented over the next two years. If enacted this year, SSBG funding for FY 2003 would be $1.975 billion and FY 2004 funding would be $2.8 billion. This represents an increase in funding of 16% for FY 2003 and 65% for FY 2004. Senators Grassley (R-IA), Kennedy (D-MA), Baucus (D-MT), Daschle (D-SD) and the bill's sponsors Senators Santorum (R-PA) and Lieberman (D-CT), voiced their strong support for this provision during the Senate floor debate.
Prior to the passage of S. 476, the bill was stripped of its controversial provisions that would have allowed charitable and faith-groups that receive federal funds to discriminate on the basis of religion in their hiring practices. The final bill does make it easier for taxpayers to take deductions for up to $250 in charitable donations. It also authorizes the creation of a "Capitol Compassion Fund" to assist charitable groups through technical assistance for grant writing and obtaining tax exempt status and incorporation. The fund may also be used to assist states in establishing local and state offices on faith-based initiatives.
There is no companion bill yet in the House. It is anticipated that when the House returns from the April recess, a bill will move forward. The White House has issued a formal statement of opposition to the SSBG provisions of the bill, stating that the funding far exceeds the President's budget request for this year.
It is very important that your elected officials know that SSBG funding is a major source of federal funding for child welfare. States use this funding through both private and public agencies to subsidize services for adoption, child protection, foster care, and child care. States need SSBG funds now as they struggle to care for abused and neglected children while wrestling with their own budget shortfalls.
Recent surveys by state and local organizations found that past cuts in SSBG funding has reduced funding for child welfare services including independent living and information and referral services.
For more information, contact Liz Meitner, CWLA Vice-President of Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-942-0257.
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