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Budget Mess Makes Planning Tough in VA

May 5, 2011

NEW KENT, Va. - As Congress continues to wrangle over the federal budget, community-action agencies say real people in Virginia are being hurt. These agencies, which serve the state's most at-risk population, say they have no idea how to plan for the future.

Chuck Emmons, who runs Quin Rivers, Inc., a New Kent nonprofit group that serves low-income residents in nine counties and the city of Fredericksburg, says planning under these circumstances is very difficult when faced with the prospect of massive cuts under plans such as that proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"We've seen a lot of new people come in and look at dollars in a budget and think, 'Well, here's a place we can save money,' without any real understanding of how that filters down into communities."

Agencies have had to develop contingency plans to deal with possible cuts, Emmons says, which makes the people they serve very nervous. Congress continues budget talks this week after getting an earful at meetings held over the Easter break from many constituents concerned about massive cuts.

Some of the funding the GOP plan is targeting doesn't make sense, Emmons says, because those funds help generate a lot more revenue.

"For instance, the Community Action Network looks like an easy $620 million cut - but we actually bring in $14.2 billion to poor people around America."

That tax money generates grants and other funds to help the poor, Emmons says. Those who advocate the massive cuts say they are needed to balance the budget.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - VA