Proposed cuts will hurt thousands in South King County | Guest column

If Congress approves President Obama’s proposed slash in federal funding to Community Action Agencies across the nation, thousands of our Federal Way neighbors in need could lose critical services such as food and housing, job retraining and employment help.

As one of the more than 1,000 Community Action Agencies in the United States, Multi-Service Center in Federal Way stands to lose $1.2 million over two years if Congress votes to cut Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding. This would deal a devastating blow to South King County’s homeless people, the elderly, and underemployed and jobless families at a time when need is skyrocketing.

Without CSBG funding, Multi-Service Center could have to turn away nearly one-quarter (12,112) of the 58,000 people we serve each year. Getting more specific, MSC would not be able to serve approximately 600 people with housing, and another 600 with financial management classes; 115 people would not get help with education, and 50 people would not receive job skills training.

Additionally, our area food bank would go from serving people three days a week to one day a week, turning away nearly 11,000 people.

Where will our neighbors go for help?

You may already know that Multi-Service Center serves as a “first stop” for people in need, providing critical services such as food, shelter, heat and eviction prevention, along with job training and referrals. So do most of the other Community Action Agencies across Washington state and the nation. All over America, Community Action Agencies are our frontline response to the economic recession. We create and retain jobs, and prepare low-income people for family-wage employment.

Community Action Agencies like MSC cross political and cultural lines and are leadership examples of the promise of bipartisanship. Through decades of building broad coalitions and local partnerships with business, faith groups and other nonprofit agencies, our Community Action Agencies have gained the trust and confidence of communities throughout King County. We are reliable, capable partners that strengthen the cities and communities where we live. 

In Federal Way, you know this from our work with the city and Federal Way Police Department to renovate and clean up a rundown apartment complex where gang members and drug dealers had flourished, making it a livable, safe place for families.

You also know us from our work with the Federal Way Public Schools on our dropout prevention program and involvement with Latino Night School. These are just a couple examples of the way MSC has built vital partnerships to make our community stronger.

The federal Community Services Block Grant program funding is critical to Multi-Service Center’s ability to create innovative resources to help people achieve their fullest potential. The flexibility of this funding allows us to move quickly to address community needs.

Additionally, it helps us leverage that funding many times over in additional financial and volunteer support. Simply put, federal CSBG funding is the fuel for a powerful engine that works where it counts most — here, at the local level.

We understand the tremendous challenges this country faces.

We know that at a time like this, we should all do our part to work together to find solutions to our federal deficit. But do we have to choose a solution that forces the deficit onto the backs of our most vulnerable citizens, creating more hunger and more homelessness? 

We call on our Congressional legislators to come up with a better way. We urge them to stand up for our South King County and Washington cities and neighborhoods by voting against slashing CSBG funding.

Now more than ever, we need the vital work of Community Action Agencies which help people build lives of sustainability and stability, and to become productive citizens of our communities.

Dini Duclos is CEO of Multi-Service Center and deputy mayor of Federal Way. Contact: dinid@multi-servicecenter.com


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