Shaheen, Murkowski Lead Colleagues in Urging Fix for Provision Blocking NH and Other States from Receiving Further Relief to Help Address Economic Impacts of COVID-19
**As a result of the “maximum allotment” provision, $43.5 million in urgently needed federal funding is being withheld from impacted states**
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led a bipartisan group of Senators in expressing serious concern with a “maximum allotment” provision that is significantly limiting the amount of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief funds that can be awarded to smaller states through the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program. In their letter to Senate leadership, the Senators highlighted the negative impact this provision is having on efforts to help address the economic effects of COVID-19 in their states, and urged that this funding cap be lifted.
In their letter, the Senators underscored the importance of CSBG funds in helping local agencies alleviate the worst impacts of the public health emergency. “Community Action Agencies (CAAs) are the primary recipients of CSBG funds. These private and public nonprofit organizations are uniquely positioned to fight poverty and prevent further financial hardship. CAAs rely on CSBG funds to provide services that address the employment, housing, nutrition and education needs of low-income families and individuals… As Americans face the devastating and long-lasting impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, these critical supports are needed now more than ever.”
The CARES Act provided an additional $1 billion to the CSBG program to provide urgently needed social services and emergency assistance to Americans impacted by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Senators highlighted that, as a result of the “maximum allotment” provision within the CSBG Act, which authorizes CSBG grants, their states face significant restrictions in the amount of CSBG funds that they can receive. They wrote, “The ‘maximum allotment’ provision of the CSBG Act prevents smaller states from accessing the funds necessary to respond to the recent surge in demand for services. Specifically, Section 675B(b)(3) of the CSBG Act restricts smaller states from receiving more than 140 percent of the aggregate amount allotted to a state in the previous fiscal year. Due to the addition of supplemental CSBG funds from the CARES Act, the allotment for the current fiscal year exceeds this threshold. As a result, smaller states have only been able to receive $1.37 million in supplemental CSBG funds.”
Currently, $43.5 million in CSBG funding is being withheld that could otherwise be allocated to impacted states. The Senators noted that states without this funding restriction were awarded up to $89 million in supplemental CSBG funds from the CARES Act, in addition to their standard allotment this fiscal year. They concluded by urging that the “maximum allotment” cap for these funds be lifted. “Thank you for your urgent attention to this request. Lifting the “maximum allotment” cap for supplemental CSBG funds and adequately funding all CAAs will allow smaller states to support those who are most vulnerable and prevent homelessness, food insecurity and other challenges that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.”
The request to lift the “maximum allotment” cap is supported by Southern New Hampshire Services, one of New Hampshire’s five CAAs. The other four CAAs in New Hampshire are Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties, Inc., Community Action Partnership of Strafford Country, Southwestern Community Services, Inc. and the Tri-Country Community Action Program.
“NH’s five Community Action Partnerships rely on CSBG funds to meet the needs of low-income households throughout the state. These funds are unique in that they allow us the flexibility to assess the emergent needs of the local community and design services to meet those needs. The CSBG funds are more essential than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. People who have never needed to ask for assistance before have been finding themselves in situations requiring them to reach out to our agencies for help to meet fundamental needs such as rent, food, and utility payments,” said Donnalee Lozeau (Executive Director, Southern New Hampshire Services). “The CARES Act funds will allow us to respond to the needs of local NH communities to help residents survive the profound economic impact related to the pandemic. One example of the use of funds here at Southern NH Services is our financial education and budgeting course called ‘Your Money in Action,’ which will help to provide a foundation for financial stability as folks emerge from the economic setbacks.”
The letter was also cosigned by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).
The full text of the letter can be read here.