Close Up: Agency by Agency Damage Report

Bill Howard
March 1, 1996

Five months along into the new fiscal year, the Republican-controlled Congress was still trying to approve six of nine major appropriations bills as YOUTH TODAY went to press.

The bills include funding for scores of programs for needy young people that are managed by the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, Labor and Justice. If enacted and signed by President Clinton, the measures would radically cut or eliminate altogether dozens of youth programs like Clinton's AmeriCorps national service initiative (see page 58).

Currently, these jeopardized programs are operating under one of Capitol Hill's truly whimsical devices — the Continuing Resolution (CR) — and many are limping along with 25 percent reductions from last year's amount.

"Seventy-five percent in hand, though, is a lot better than nothing," commented an HHS Children's Bureau staffer who asked not to be identified by name.

Are young people suffering as a result? Answers to that question are still being reckoned. But some of the damage is already apparent.

Take Summer Youth Employment and Training aiding some 615,000 primarily urban teenagers. The program is out of business this summer, according to the Labor Department's Elena Walker and government lawyers. There is no money, as of the moment, but that could change.

The $867 million program is forward funded by 18 months. When the Republicans rescinded funding for many programs last year in the FY ‘95 budget. Walker said they also cut the FY '94 forward funding for this year's summer jobs. House and Senate bills would also eliminate the program in 1997.

Kristina Moore of the National Youth Employment Coalition said many members of Congress were under the false impression the Summer Jobs program would be funded when they voted to support the last Continuing Resolution bill in January. Led by the newly elected and seated Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), 20 Senators and more than 50 Representatives have signed letters to the appropriation committees urging the reinstatement of summer Job funds. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has also won a commitment from President Clinton to support restoration of funds.

Adding to the suspense, if a new CR is approved to extend beyond March 15, the coalition said under a recent Office of Management and Budget ruling it may release $635 million — a 25 percent cutback — in 1996 summer Jobs funding. But there is no guarantee Republicans will buy it. Summer youth workers don't vote

A quick run-through of the budget shows many other programs important to youth work in the areas of education, training, social services and health have been cut or marked for oblivion. The only agency to escape entirely unscathed with its funding of $144 million intact at the FY '95 level is the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

The 22-year-old JJDPAct, however, is up for reauthorization this year, and there is talk of converting it to a block grant to give states more money to fight serious juvenile crime (see page 26). So its future is in doubt, too.

In studying the following FY '96 agency budget tables prepared by YOUTH TODAY, please note that the formula generally applied by Congress to cutting programs is as follows: If a program is zeroed out in either the House or Senate appropriations bills that have not yet been signed into law, it automatically received a 25 percent reduction in the CR. If the bills differ in amount, the CR figure is the lowest of the two, but no more than a 25 percent cut from the FY '95 amount.

Of the agency group, only the Agriculture Department's appropriation was enacted and signed by Clinton.

Education: Title I Whacked

Taking the single largest hit of all children and youth programs was the Education Department's Title I aid to inner city schools. The $6.9 billion program is being chopped to $5.7 billion — a $1.2 billion cut that James Guitard, director of governmental relations for the American Association of Higher Education, said would adversely affect more than one million of the five million children served by the program.

"Many schools that would've been recipients won't receive any money, and others will receive less," he said.

Former Rhodes scholar Clinton made education a main priority for his administration by introducing a number of school initiatives that the Republicans arc now busy dismantling. Not surprisingly, School-to-Work, a program that works to build ties between the private sector and public schools to help youth make the transition to the work world, has been under fire from congressional budget cutters.

As originally conceived, School-to-Work was to be a five-year program. Now only in its second year, it has operations up and running in 27 states. But with House Republicans only proposing to put forth $190 million towards what was supposed to be a $400 million dollar program, Jim Wernsing of the National School-to-Work office said the program won't be venturing into any new states. "We'll be leaving out nearly half the nation."

Wernsing also predicted that all state and local grants will probably be cut by 25 percent across the board this year and probably the same next year. And he questioned whether in the future School-to-Work will be able to maintain the state programs already in existence. "We're talking about millions of people who will be affected. Which is too bad."

Mike Casserly of the Council of Great City Schools said federal indecision is gumming up planning process at the local level. "What's happening is chaos, indecision and gridlock. The result is Congress has postponed its decisions about funding levels for education into a time where local school districts are deciding how to staff up for next year. The CR expires after a time when many schools have to give their teachers notice (as to whether they still have jobs)."

Goals 2000, the President's main initiative to help states raise standards of student achievement and discipline, has also run into trouble. Popular with the states because it allows them to set their own benchmarks and write their own plans in promoting professional development of teachers, the House nonetheless voted to terminate the program. dropping 9,300 excellence grants to schools with a total of 5.1 million students.

The Senate sought only a $62 million cut, which would have affected 1,600 grants to schools serving 800,000 students. Cindy Brown, director of the Center for Educational Equity, a Council of Chief State School Officers resource program, said: "It's too bad, because they had just reformed the program in a really great way. Goals 2000 focuses on the whole school, setting high standards for all the kids, not just pulling the best out into special programs, and improves teaching through professionalism of the school staff. That part is so tragic."

The Eisenhower Professional Development grant under Title II, A program that promotes training and professional development for teachers, particularly in math and science, has been gutted by House Republicans, who left only $50 million in place out of its $252 million FY '95 appropriation. The Senate took a kinder view of the program in committee, actually voting to increase the teacher development funds by $24 million, But under CR rules it wound up at 25 percent less than FY '95.

Safe and Drug Free Schools also faces a steep cut. The Senate and the House voted to drop $266 million from the program, as opposed to the President's proposal to increase funding by $34 million. Commented Guitard, "it seems like a no-brainer, like one that basically everyone could go along with."

According to Department of Education estimates, if the Continuing Resolution is extended through the rest of the fiscal year at the present levels, education will have been cut to $3.1 billion below last year. Considering that federal funds make up only 7 percent of all money spent on education, the cuts may not seem that serious. But says Guitard, it may mean the difference between many students making it or not.

In another quirk the CR has "temporarily terminated" Education's $28 million dropout prevention program. “The budget is still all up in the air," said department spokesman Roger Murphy." After March 15, it could come back."

Labor: JTPA Under Attack

If a Labor Department appropriation is approved, more than just the youth summer jobs program would be devastated.

The House wants to belt grants to states for year-round operation of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) with a 64 percent reduction — dropping it from $599 million to$127 million. The Senate bill would pare it to $311 million.

Roughly 870,000 youth take part in the JTPA year-round training programs. “Four million kids drop out of high school every year," said the Employment Coalition's Kristina Moore. "The need is high." Coupled with loss of the summer jobs program, she added, "That's almost a million young people given pink slips by the U.S. government and that's an outrage."

JTPA grants to states for training programs for adults would be cut by $224 million. Translated, this means job training will be available to fewer of the welfare recipients that Republicans so desperately want to see off the rolls.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, employment and training sustained the deepest cuts of all low-income discretionary programs. An average of the FY '96 House and Senate appropriations bills would have slashed $2 billion, or 41 percent, from employment and youth training funding.

Job Corps, the 30-year-old federal residential program that provides job training to at-risk youth, held its own, receiving a roughly post rescission level of funding from the Senate — $1.09 billion. Unprecedented for House Republicans Job Corps in the '96 appropriation was upped to $1.121 billion but kept at the Senate's level in the CR.

More Job Corps funding is needed, says Mary Shell of the Home Institute, a member of the Job Corps Coalition. "Particularly with the proposed cuts in welfare, we'll be seeing more and more youth turning to this program."

More changes for youth employment and training loom on the legislative horizon. Retiring Sen. Nancy Kassebaum's Workforce Development Act, which she has intended to be her legacy, would turn 80 federal job training programs with $8 billion in funding over to the states in a single block grant. Both the Senate bill and House version, known as CAREERS, have passed, and the committees are attempting to work out the differences in conference. At the earliest, the bill would go into effect in '97.

Andrew Moore of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC) sees problems with both bills. In the Senate bill, governors have control over the allocation of funds, while the House bill requires states to implement work-force development boards in local areas, simplifying the lobbying task for youth groups. The House bill would cut funding for programs from 10 to 20 percent whereas "the Senate has put in their authorization a level of funding for youth programs that is more comparable to levels we knew in years past, and that is the glimmer of hope in all this," Moore said, adding, "but an authorization does not an appropriation make."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), charged with enforcing U.S. labor laws, also faces serious cuts. Funded at $312 million in '95, the House would cut it to $264 million or 15.5 percent, a number that currently stands under the CR.

Because OSHA provides half the funds for state inspections, the cuts actually mean enforcement efforts would be reduced by 33 percent. OSHA's enforcement staff is already stretched thin, with only 2,000 federal and state inspectors responsible for enforcing compliance with labor laws in six million workplaces employing 93 million Americans.

"When you consider that we have the highest injury rate for adolescent workers among all the affluent nations in the world, such a cut would only exacerbate the problem," said Darlene Adkins of the National Child Labor Coalition. She estimates 100,000 teens were injured at work last year.

Not incidentally, Republican members of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities and the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committees received nearly $500,000 in PAC money from restaurateurs and grocery stores — some of the worst violators of child labor laws.

HUD: Downsizing YouthBuild

The House wanted to kill YouthBuild, the federally funded program that involves needy and troubled youth in learning construction trades by renovating housing. But the program's long-time supporters. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chris Bond (R-Mo.), managed to keep it alive. They persuaded the Senate to pass a $40 million appropriation, the same as FY '95, and in conference, negotiators settled on a $20 mil-lion mark.

That's a drastic downsizing, but a plus just the same to YouthBuild Coalition president and founder Dorothy Stoneman. "It's a victory that should enable us to bounce back when the political winds change again," she said.

There's a snag, however. YouthBuild was dropped from Clinton's FY '96 budget when he "reinvented" HUD last February and decided to make YouthBuild funds available through state block grants instead.

"We're trying to have our coalition members and supporters urge him (Clinton) to negotiate our budget back to the original $40 million the Senate proposed. We don't know what's going to happen. We're going to get the $20 million, but we're hoping for more," said YouthBuild's legislative expert, Selena Toledo.

Gordon Cavanaugh of Reno and Cavanaugh, a law firm that does housing and community development legal work, sees trouble ahead for YouthBuild. "Senator Kerry is in a tight reelection race with Governor Weld," he said. "We'll have to see how that goes — if Kerry loses, YouthBuild might be history."

Agriculture: Lunches Intact

In their first go-rounds on welfare reform Republicans proposed converting the Agriculture Department's school lunch program for needy children into a block grant to the states and allowing them to set their own nutritional standards. The idea generated so much heat, including the threat of a presidential veto, the reformers dropped it.

As a result, the program has survived intact in the enacted appropriations bull at $5.2 billion. GOP lawmakers even boosted the summer food program by $39 million to $271 million. Their welfare reform bill does have a wrinkle: Sponsors of summer food programs for children would be reimbursed 30 cents less for each meal provided. Michael Haga of the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) said a survey of participating states showed that, if approved, the cut would "disastrously impact" upon sponsor participation.

"If sponsors don't participate then the children have nowhere to go. Only one out of six eligible children participates in the summer food program as it is. It's grossly underutilized," he added.

The uncertainty factor presents problems as well, since food programs prepare their budgets months in advance and any late-breaking changes in funding could upset distribution of summer food to children.

The numbers aren't firm yet, but the Forest Service's Youth Conservation Corps program likely will be funded at its FY '95 level of $1 million.

Agriculture's 4-H youth development and Youth at Risk programs were shaved slightly, losing a little over $1 million and $150,000, respectively, at $62 million and $9.8 million (see article on page 28).

ACF: The Title XX 'Lesson'

In the Title XX social services block grant that started under President Ford in 1975, Congress has established a funding pattern that demonstrates all too clearly why youth advocates are wary of block grants.

Twenty years ago, Title XX received a $2.5 billion appropriation to help states fund day care, foster care, protective and other services for the needy and disabled. At the end of his term, President Carter tried to boost the figure up to $3 billion but was rebuffed by President Reagan's budget cutters, who managed to trim it back to $2.4 billion.

In recent years, Title XX has struggled up to $2.8 billion. But now the GOP Congress has slapped it back to where it began -- ordering a 10 percent cut in the program's cap that in the FY '96 CR brings it back down to $2.520 billion.

"When inflation is factored in," said one follower of children and youth programs,
"Title XX shows you how a block grant takes you nowhere — except down!"

Perhaps because they were attempting to bundle many Administration for Children and Family programs into block grants under their welfare reform proposals, Republicans let most programs remain at or close to their FY '95 levels and provided full funding of entitlements. The latter include foster care and adoption assistance and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Also held at its $70 million level was the in dependent living program for youths aging out of the foster care system.

Although both the House and Senate bills agreed to boost spending on the family preservation and support program to $225 million, the CR rules held it to FY '95's $150 million appropriation.

But there are casualties

Two Runaway and Homeless Youth special programs — aimed at drug prevention among runaways and youth gang members — were zeroed out in House and Senate appropriations measures. They are being continued at the CR 75 percent rate of $10.9 million and $7.9 million, respectively, but could be gone in FY '97.

Funding of basic shelter grants was held at $40.5 million, the FY '95 rate, and the $13.6 million runaway youth transitional living program was clipped $1 million. Della Hughes of the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services said "We're pretty confident those figures will stand up for the rest of the year." But she wasn't at all sure what will happen to reauthorization of the program as a title of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

"We're prepared to engage in any strategy that will preserve direct federal funding of centers," Hughes said.

The $3.5 billion Head Start program was chopped by $133 million but it won't have much effect. “They have a hard time spending all the money they get now," said one program informant. Congress, however, did zero out a $1.6 million child development associate scholarship program aimed at raising standards of Head Start workers.

House and Senate bills also eliminated the $31.4 million community-based resource center program and the $7.4 million family support centers. Both are at 75 percent in the CR. But HHS insiders say they probably will be financed at the 100 percent rate. "There are several different pots of money we can fund them out of," said one.

Research and development funding is being crimped. Zeroed out by appropriations bills, child welfare R&D has been, cut back $1.6 million to $4.8 million.

Birch: CAPTA Could Die

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), also up for reauthorization this year as well as being proposed as a block grant pawn, was pegged at the FY '95 figure. Tom Birch of the National Coalition on Child Abuse said, however, "It's all up in the air whether CAPTA will survive."

Already surviving on slim pickings, Interior Department youth programs aren't expected to go any lower. The National Park Service's Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), funded at $1.7 million in 1994, received $1 million FY '95. Its FY '96 budget figures have yet to be established; $1 million dollars is the floor amount designated in its authorization.

The Park Service's $18 million Job Corps program funded by the Labor Department also appears in good shape.

Youth programs in the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget also fared well, with education projects and child protection and family violence prevention programs roughly level funded in the congressional conference report at $271 million and $595,000, respectively. Indian Child Welfare Assistance lost a little over $4 million, falling to $17.9 million.

David Simmons of the Portland, Ore. based National Indian Child Welfare Association said proposed changes in the House's Welfare Reform Bill. HR 4, were of far more concern to Native Americans than the relatively minor cuts in the Indian Affairs budget. Under the bill, funds for child care would be reduced by one-third and control of the funds would be given to the states. "How are tribes going to be able to protect (their programs)?" he wonders.

Simmons also pointed out that programs that serve Indian children traditionally have been under-funded, despite the fact that "Indian children have some of the greatest need in the United States." On the up side, the proposed legislation would allow tribes to operate their own cash assistance programs.

Long-standing drug prevention and treatment programs aimed at high-risk youth are marked for extinction in House and Senate spending bills.

Zeroed out are HHS' $65.1 million Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). the $54.2 million treatment improvement demonstration program for pregnant women and new mothers and $37.5 million for treatment of incarcerated youth. They are being continued by the CR at $48.9 million, $41 million and $28.1 million respectively.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) programs were clipped by $208 million in receiving $1,234 million under the CR. GOP lawmakers did, however, maintain the substance abuse block grant at its $1,1234 million FY '95 level. It helps support community centers treating youth and adults.

Significantly, the two appropriations bills agree on eliminating AIDS demonstration and training projects tailored for drug users. The $18 million program package has been reduced to $13.5 million in the CR.

Perhaps the most peculiar action — in view of strident battles over the years by Republicans to junk the program — is preservation of Title X family planning at $193 million, the same as FY '95. Equally strange is the zeroing out in appropriations bills is $6.7 million for the adolescent family life (AFL) program seeking ways to somehow inculcate teenagers to abstain from sex.

What's odd about it is that in the welfare reform bill vetoed by Clinton a big thing was made of "abstinence education" related to reducing out-of-wedlock births by welfare mothers. The bill called for upping the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) block grant to $761 million and earmarking $75 million for an "educational or motivational program that has abstaining from sexual activity as its exclusive purpose."

MCH never got the money or the authority to proceed. Its FY 95 budget of $684 million was reduced to $678.9 million in the CR. So goes the GOP campaign of social engineering.

Howard, Bill. "Close Up: Agency by Agency Damage Report."Youth Today, March/April 1996, p. 21-25.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.