Mayors Join City Human Services Officials at 29th Annual Meeting
By Tom Easter
May 9, 2005
Human services administrators and directors for local social service programs gathered in Washington (DC) for the 29th Annual Meeting of City Human Services Officials to discuss the challenges facing today's cities and discussed with policy professionals issues affecting city human services delivery. Jack Powers, President of the U.S. Conference of City Human Services Officials, and Director of the Alexandria Department of Human Services, served as the moderator for the sessions. The meeting sponsored by the United States Conference of City Human Services Officials, an affiliate organization of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, was held in partnership with The Conference of Mayors- Working Families Initiative funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Through this partnership the human services officials exchange best practices and information on how to provide more comprehensive and relevant services with less resources and funding. Joining the human services officials were mayors interested in sharing their concerns regarding the challenges of the working families. The mayors included Conference Vice-President Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Children, Health, and Human Services Standing Committee Chair Richmond, (CA) Mayor Irma Anderson, Warwick, (RI) Mayor Scott Avedisian, Alexandria, (VA) Mayor William D. Euille, Savannah, (GA) Mayor Otis Johnson, and Folsom, (CA) Mayor Steve Miklos.
Steve Tuminaro, Director/Treasure of Public Policy and Legislative Affairs for NeighborWorks America discussed trends relating to affordable housing. "Resources are shrinking and the problems are getting worse," said Tuminaro referring to large tax cuts being levied to housing program
Tuminaro emphasized that no city, county, or state has enough housing for the low-income housing needs in their communities. Center for Housing Policy and NACo report on working families and housing needs. The majority of people employed by the city cannot afford to leave in the communities where they work.
During his presentation, he outlined some possible responses to the shrinking federal dollar:
- Work much more at the local level at a coordinated approach. (For example, a number of affiliates reached out into the communities to form partnerships and coalition networks to address the local housing needs by interjecting the human services perspective into the rehab of housing.)
- Improving the capacity of nonprofits in your city.
- Leveraging the local resources available to create success in local projects.
- The need to provide statistical evidence of your achievements.
Food and Nutrition Programs
Ellen Teller, Director of Government Affairs, and Ellen Vollinger, Legal Director of Food Research Action Committee, explained the possible funding changes to various programs that provide food and nutrition to our children. They expressed concern that changes to the funding levels for the food stamp program would be incorporated with the welfare reauthorization, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) resulting in less funding for nutrition programs including $9 billion of cuts over five years in farm programs and agriculture ($550 million out of food stamps).
Teller also discussed attempts to increase summer feeding pilot programs for children and the need to create pilot programs in every state. Teller explained the need for out-of'school food programs to focus on increasing access to healthy and nutritious meals.
Child Care/Child Welfare Initiatives
Sarah Green, President/Executive Director of the National Head Start Association, Clifford Johnson, Executive Director of the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities and Helen Blank, Director of Leadership and Public Policy at the National Women's Law Center discussed child care and welfare initiatives including Head Start reauthorization, TANF reauthorization and how cuts to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program would affect human service programs.
As the Head Start Program authorization is set to expire September 2005, Congress has set an aggressive agenda for reauthorizing the program. Green stated that there are things that she and her organization would like to see in the bill including, an increase to the income eligibility which would allow the program to reach more people and have greater range of services.
Cliff Johnson addressed the potential impact of the elimination and a reduction of funding for CDBG would have on social services program He noted that even a 15 percent cut to CDBG and possible elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) would create a tremendous void in cities that can not be met by general revenue funding. He fears that there may not be the political will or ability to divert funding to cover these costs which will result in amazing impacts on social service programming.
TANF Reauthorization Welfare Reform
Margy Waller, Visiting Fellow for Welfare Reform and Working Families from Brookings Institution, Mark Greenberg, Director of Welfare Reform and Income Support Policy for the Center for Law and Social Policy and Becky Shipp, Health Policy Advisor for the Senate Committee on Finance discussed the pros and cons of reauthorization of TANF.
The central theme of the debate was reauthorization versus reconciliation. While each side stood firm on their position, it was clear that this program will be reauthorized one way or another. Another sticking point in the debate was merits of using the earned income tax credit (EITC) set aside to fund childcare. The outcome was that the set aside would be used for something so why not use it for much needed childcare funding in the reauthorization of the TANF bill.
Elaine Ryan, Director of Governmental Affairs for the American Public Human Services Association and Sharon Parrott, Director of Welfare Reform and Income Support Policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities budget issues and the effects that budget changes will have on the deficit. "Bringing forward last years budget and making no changes will actually allow the current deficit to remain unchanged," stated Elaine Ryan suggesting that doing nothing may in fact be better than creating a new budget that adds to the deficit.
Refer to the Conference website www.usmayors.org/chhs to view other Best Practices submitted during this meeting. For more information on The Annie E. Casey Foundation partnership activities, visit the usmayors.org website.