News

Budgeting has social services nervous

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

President Bush's recent federal budget proposal to cut funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program by $1 billion could have major impacts in Federal Way, particularly after local agencies have struggled to absorb two years of similar cuts.

Dini Duclos, chief executive officer of the Federal Way-based Multi-Service Center of South King County, said her agency could lose up to 12 percent of its 2007 budget if the president's proposed cuts are approved by Congress. The center would have to eliminate its education programs, including GED, basic adult and English-as-a-second-language training.

She said the agency also would have to dramatically cut its employment assistance program, and both the food assistance and long-term care ombudsman programs would face cuts.

Kelli O'Donnell, CDBG coordinator for the city of Federal Way, said the $1 billion in cuts would reduce the city's human-services budget 30 percent. That follows a 5 percent cut in 2005 and a 10 percent cut in 2006, she said, meaning by the end of 2007, human services would have lost 45 percent of its budget.

As part of the "Strengthening America's Communities Initiative," Bush proposed eliminating CDBG funding altogether. Social service agencies quickly lobbied to keep the money intact.

The president's fiscal year 2007 budget proposal keeps the CDBG program, but it makes deep cuts — more than 25 percent in 2007 — and consolidates the Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, the Brownfields Revitalization Program and the Economic Development Initiative grant program.

And even though the CDBG program is still there, local social service agencies are feeling the crush of the financial cutbacks while the need is still great.

Over the years, the city has directed CDBG money to a variety of projects, like the Boys and Girls Club's EX3 teen center near Truman High School, the Mitchell Place senior housing development on South 336th Street administered by Multi-Service Center, a street lighting project in the Westway neighborhood off 21st Avenue Southwest, and the center's conversion of the Garden Park Apartments into temporary-to-permanent transitional housing.

CDBG money also has the childcare subsidy program at the Norman Center YMCA, programming at the Boys and Girls Clubs of King and Pierce counties and the Emergency Feeding Program.

O'Donnell added the federal money helps the city get state and local money, too. "We're always using CDBG money to leverage more money," she said.

The proposed cuts have local human services providers worried. "It's a question of whether we can continue to provide services," O'Donnell said. "It's an ongoing concern."

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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