Connecticut must protect safety net

CAFCA | January 27, 2013 |

It’s time for the public to recognize that the state’s long-standing safety net that has protected the most vulnerable members of our society is being shredded. The state’s repeated budget cuts and rescissions threaten its very existence.

We are the leaders of two of New London County’s largest community-based, not-for-profit organizations — Thames Valley Council for Community Action Inc. (TVCCA) and United Community and Family Services Inc. (UCFS). We serve 43,000 people, employ 710 and have a combined budget in excess of $50 million.
TVCCA and UCFS provide access to basic services such as energy assistance, health care, child care and food stamp eligibility.
These services are not luxuries but essentials to live in this region. Since 2009, our organizations, and all other nonprofits, have received less funding for needed services as demand has grown.

We’re now at a crossroads. The state needs to reduce spending in the current fiscal year, with projected deficits of more than $1 billion dollars in each of the next three years. This recession has hit Connecticut hard and we do not appear to be coming out of it fast enough to mitigate the projected deficits.
How we respond will determine the type of society we will live in.

Many of the people seeking assistance from our organizations, and others, have never had to seek assistance in the past. These “new recipients” were productive members of society, holding jobs, spending their income in the community and in many cases, contributing to organizations like ours.
Now, because of job losses, depleted savings and in some cases, loss of homes, they find themselves asking for assistance. They’re in this position through no fault of their own. They are economic casualties.

How will we respond to their need? Do we continue to cut the budgets of organizations that provide the services they need? Do we ration care? Do we abandon them?  We agree that Connecticut’s fiscal challenge is daunting. We also know that people are not expendable. We must continue to fund services to those in need; especially now, when that need continues to grow. Helping people up, supporting their fight back to self-sufficiency, is the right thing to do.

If your vision of the future for your friends, your family and your neighbors includes a safety net, you must speak up. Tell the state to restore and protect the safety net that has been a proud American tradition.