Some bad nonprofit news in proposed budget cuts

[Editor’s note: A longer version of this article was published in The Cohen Report, a publication of The Nonprofit Quarterly.]

Rick Cohen
Rick Cohen

Rick Cohen

Nonprofit interests are among the winners and losers in the treatment by the House Appropriations Committee of the fiscal 2010 budget proposed by President Barack Obama, who is not getting exactly what he wanted.

In some cases, it is clear Congress and the White House, both controlled by Democrats, do not always see eye to eye.

For example:

* The Corporation for National and Community Service took it on the chin, overall and in specific programs, with the committee cutting $90 million out of Obama’s proposed budget. That includes     a cut of $15 million out of the $50 million proposed for the much-ballyhooed Social Innovation Fund.

* The committee zeroed out the agency’s Volunteer Generation Fund, authorized in the Serve America Act for $50 million in 2010 and meant to grow to $100 million in fiscal 2014.

* And it cut $41 million from Obama’s request for AmeriCorps State and National Grants, which still total $60 million more than in fiscal 2009, for a total of $331.5 million.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has no leader in the wake of Maria Eitel’s withdrawal for unspecified health reasons.

Her background as a supporter and spokeswoman for Nike’s overseas sweatshop operations got some mention by Nike critics, however.

And with the Obama administration’s firing of the agency’s inspector general in a spat over his findings about an AmeriCorps grantee in Sacramento – led by former basketball star Kevin Johnson, who later was elected mayor — the agency is mired in political controversy.

But the biggest problem facing the Corporation for National and Community Service is the House’s perception that the agency is a managerial nightmare and need big-time improvement.

The Appropriations Committee also zeroed out the Strengthening Communities Fund at the Department of Health and Human Services, Obama’s replacement for the Bush Administration’s faith-based Compassion Capital Fund.

The committee also removed the entire $250 million proposed for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, saying the program was “unauthorized”.

Rather, the appropriators took the money and put it into the HOPE VI program for restoring severely distressed public housing, a program Obama had eliminated.

The executive branch needs the support of Congress to get the money it wants into specific programs.

There has been a ton of nonprofit attention to the Executive Office of the President, lots of focus on social innovation and other high profile program initiatives of the White House.

But Congressional budget-writers possess immense power over the resources – and earmarks — of concern to the nonprofit sector.

The fiscal 2010 budget recommendations of the House Appropriations Committee speak powerfully to the nonprofit sector about where additional time and attention must be spent.

Rick Cohen is national correspondent for The Nonprofit Quarterly and a regular contributor to the Philanthropy Journal.

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