Local news

SUNDAY, FEB. 20, 2011

Federal grant cuts would jeopardize North Idaho services to poor

Proposed cuts to a 30-year-old federal grant program would mean office closures and layoffs in the Community Action Partnership offices serving North Idaho’s poorest residents.

“Just because the funding goes away doesn’t mean the need goes away,” said Lisa Stoddard, executive director of the Community Action Partnership.

The private, nonprofit social services organization relies on the Community Service Block Grant program to maintain offices and 110 employees in the 10 northern Idaho counties, as well as Asotin County in Washington.

“The impact on these communities would be significant,” Stoddard said.

The flexible anti-poverty program helps provide a wide range of social services to 45,000 low-income clients. The poverty rate in the area served by the Community Action Partnership ranges from about 9 percent in Nez Perce County to 16 percent in Clearwater County.

This year, the agency expected to receive $700,000 from the federal program. Although the grant would represent only 10 percent of the agency’s budget, Stoddard described Community Service Block Grant funds as “the mortar that holds everything else together.”

Last week, President Barack Obama proposed halving the $700 million program in his 2012 spending plan, but Republican budget writers already are preparing to cut the program 60 percent this year.

That would result in the immediate closure of several CAP offices that do not also have food banks, which receive private cash donations, Stoddard said. Offices that are most at risk are in Sandpoint, Moscow, Orofino, Kamiah and Grangeville.

Stoddard said the jobs of 30 of her agency’s community services coordinators and administrative staff members also would be in jeopardy.

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