CMCA fears future funding losses

Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) administrators are wondering if some programs administered by their agency will survive pending federal budget cuts.

A last-minute Congressional budget deal Friday night averted a federal government shutdown. Congress then approved a stopgap measure to keep the government running through next Friday while details of the new spending plan are written into legislation.

Final details of the budget year taking the government through September aren’t known yet but it has many federal agencies worried.

Central Missouri Community Action administers a variety of federal aid programs for low income Missourians. Based in Columbia, the Mid-Missouri agency serves the counties of Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage.

Trina Almond, CMCA development and communication director, said the agency is concerned about the outcome of pending federal budget cuts.

There are rumblings about what may happen, if not in the current budget then in the next round of cuts coming next fiscal year. The U.S. House has passed some severe budget cuts but those cuts so far have not been approved by the U.S. Senate.

Almond and other administrators at the agency are concerned about whether some of the federal programs they administer will even survive when the final federal budget is approved.

Before Friday night’s deal, six rounds of continuing resolutions were signed by President Obama that continued spending since last October, which was the first month of the current fiscal year.

The U.S. House version of the federal budget would have meant the loss of CMCA’s Community Services Block Grant Program, Almond said.

Darin Pries, CMCA executive director, said “the House passed cuts that would devastate CMCA’s ability to serve Callaway County.”

Pries said the Foster Grandparent Program would cease to exist and Head Start programming would be reduced.

“We would have to seriously consider closing our Callaway County Family Resource Center,” Pries said. The center is located at 610 Collier Lane in Fulton.

He fears Callaway County residents served by the center will backslide into the recession they are desperately trying to escape.

“Our ability to provide assistance to families that are struggling would be severely restricted, and our ability to respond to local needs and support local initiatives would be severely hampered,” Pries said.

CMCA’s Foster Grandparent Program allows seniors on a fixed, low income to provide emotional and behavioral support to children that may otherwise be at risk in a variety of settings. They include day care centers, state-supported facilities, schools and at home.

Almond said 85 older adults now participate in the Foster Grandparent Program in Central Missouri.

Lisa Brown, executive director of SERVE, Inc., in Fulton, said “the effect of losing the Retired Senior Volunteer Program would have an immediate impact on SERVE. We not only may have to make staffing cuts, we also are a site that depends on these volunteers to help us meet the growing need in the food pantry and for SERVE’s other services.”

Brown said the volunteers are critical to operating the food pantry. She said the volunteers often work behind the scenes on other programs as well. “Without someone dedicated to recruiting, training, and coordinating volunteers, I’m not sure if SERVE or the other 13 not-for-profit agencies that depend on these volunteers have the resources to take on that job all on their own,” Brown said.

Almond said the federal Head Start Program will be reduced in size and scope as a result of a continuing resolution approved by Congress. It will affect CMCA’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs. This early childhood education program offers prenatal support, infant/toddler education, school readiness, family development services, medical and dental screenings and referrals, nutritional support, and emotional health resources to children of low income families.

The Head Start program is available at 22 facilities throughout Central Missouri. It is designed to get children ready to attend kindergarten.

The U.S. House-approved budget plan eliminated Workforce Investment Act programs. Last year 158,000 Central Missourians were served by the career centers in Jefferson City, Columbia and Mexico.

The federal Weatherization Program also was targeted to be eliminated in the House version of the budget. The budget also significantly reduces the federal energy assistance program.

Randy Cole, energy efficiency coordinator for CMCA, said “If the Weatherization Program is eliminated, low income families will continue to struggle to balance paying for high energy costs. The Weatherization Program reduces the reliance these families may have on public support to pay their utility bills through Energy Assistance programs. When you look at cuts to both programs, these families may risk having no heating or cooling source altogether.”

Almond said CMCA used federal stimulus money for a variety of programs in Central Missouri. It included creation of an oral health access initiative in Callaway County.

Almond said if funding for Community Services Block Grants is eliminated, CMCA will have to close many of its Family Resource Centers, not only in Callaway County but also in other counties in Central Missouri. About 35 employees, who work at various centers throughout Central Missouri, would lose their jobs, she said.

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