Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Food Stamp benefits will increase tomorrow

It's no April Fools joke - tomorrow is an important day for individuals who rely on food stamps. Benefits are scheduled to increase 13.6%, or $20-$24 for the average family as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Food stamp benefits are closely related to economic conditions, so it’s not surprising that caseloads have increased significantly over the last year.

As the graph below shows, the number of food stamp recipients in Ohio has risen 15.4% since 2005, to an average of nearly 1.8 million people receiving the benefit each month during calendar year 2008. When 2009 data begins to be available later this year, we expect to see a continued climb.

Source: ODJFS

The food stamp increase is well-designed stimulus because it meets the “Three T” criteria of targeted, timely, and temporary. The temporary increase that begins in April is expected to bring an additional $178 million into Ohio during the next six months, and should generate around $330 million in economic activity in our state. Since 75% of recipients are in families with children, and nearly one-third of recipients are elderly or persons with disabilities, this important economic stimulus has the added bonus of assisting vulnerable Ohioans.


Last Week in Washington - 3/30/09

Budget resolutions will be moving in both the House and Senate next week. Please help ward off cuts to domestic discretionary spending and increases in tax cuts in the Senate.

The House and Senate will take up their respective versions of the budget resolution this week. We are not expecting difficult amendments to be offered during the House debate, so the “ask” for moderate legislators is to support the final resolution.

The Senate debate is likely to be quite contentious and votes on a number of difficult amendments are expected. The “ask” for moderate Senators is to oppose any amendment to cut discretionary spending or increase tax cuts, especially if those tax cuts are not assumed to be paid for.

Brief summary of House and Senate resolutions. Both resolutions would facilitate legislation to carry out President Obama’s main initiatives: health care reform, climate change/energy legislation, strengthening education, and start to address the long-term fiscal problem.

Discretionary: The House resolution reduces non-defense discretionary (including international) funding by $7 billion below the President’s request. The Senate resolution reduces non-defense discretionary spending by $15 billion below the President’s request. The remaining increases are quite modest when put into proper perspective.

The House budget resolution assumes domestic discretionary (excluding international) funding would be increased by 3.5 percent above 2009 levels, taking into account inflation and factoring out a must-do increase for the decennial Census and a technical increase for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program.

The Senate budget resolution assumes an increase of just 1.5 percent over last year’s levels, taking into account inflation and factoring out a must-do increase for the decennial Census and a technical increase for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program. (The President would provide an increase of 3.9 percent for domestic discretionary programs, making the same adjustments for inflation, the Census and FHA loan guarantees.)

Mandatory: The House resolution includes “reconciliation instructions” to the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees for health care reform legislation, and to the Education and Labor Committee, for higher education, presumably to accommodate the President’s proposal to end the Family Federal Student Loan program and use the savings to increase federal Pell grants. The Senate resolution includes no reconciliation instructions, but this will be an open issue for conference. If the reconciliation process is triggered, it mainly affects consideration of legislation in the Senate. The time for consideration would be limited, the types of provisions that could be included would be limited as would the types of amendments that could be offered, and the bill could not be filibustered, so only 50 votes would be needed.

Both the House and Senate resolutions include a number of deficit-neutral reserve funds for health care reform, climate change/energy, child nutrition, and higher education.

Please contact Senator Voinovich and urge him to:
1) oppose further cuts in the discretionary spending levels; and
2) oppose any increases in tax cuts, especially in the estate tax, beyond what’s assumed in the resolution.

The decisions that get made this week could have a significant impact on policies that help the most vulnerable people in this country. So please weigh in to ensure the best possible outcome! If you need more info, contact me at ecampbell@communitysolutions.com.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Five Things You Need To Know This Week, March 30, 2009

Five Things You Need To Know This Week, March 30, 2009

1. In the nation...
On Wednesday, April 1, a key element of the economic recovery package — an increase in food stamp benefits — will kick in, providing a big economic boost to communities across the country and helping struggling families put food on the table. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) explains that benefits will go up by 13.6 percent, or roughly $20-$24 per person per month for most families, and that all food stamp households will benefit. Between December 2007 and December 2008, food stamp enrollment nationally increased by more than 4 million, or about 15 percent; Ohio saw a 12 percent increase. CBPP notes that experts agree that food stamps are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus available. Click here for more information.

2. In the state...
If you live in a property-wealthy school district hoping for a funding windfall, or in a poor, rural district worried about the pain of the state budget ax, pay close attention to the Statehouse in the next few weeks. Many changes to Gov. Ted Strickland's school-funding plan are in the works.

3. In the region...
In a continuing rite of spring, Summit, Medina, Wayne and Stark counties will collect old refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and other household appliances in April. The collections allow residents to rid themselves of appliances that contain refrigerants that could otherwise require a recycling fee.

For information about recycling in Cuyahoga:

4. At Community Solutions
This week, we will launch the beginnings of a new and improved Website and unveil an exciting new product—our online subscription service to the Northeast Ohio Media Guide. Visit http://www.communitysolutions.com/ on Friday (April 3) to take a look and subscribe to the new Media Guide service, which replaces the 50+-year biennial publication.

5. Miscellaneous
On Saturday (April 4), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will rock Cleveland’s Public Hall for the first time since 1997. Admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will be FREE all day. Find the week’s schedule of activities here:

Got an event coming up? Submit your event, free of charge, to our online Community Calendar: kseeman@CommunitySolutions.com.

Help us create community solutions together by donating here: https://www.communitysolutions.com/howhelp/donation/

Monday, March 23, 2009


Last Week in Washinton - 3/23/09

It will be a big week for budget discussions in Washington as it looks like the House and Senate Budget Committees will consider their respective versions of the budget resolution this week.

The House and Senate Budget Committees plan to mark up their respective versions of a budget resolution this week. If they do, House and Senate floor consideration would occur the following week (March 30). The two-week recess for Easter and Passover starts on April 6. Leadership hopes to complete conference sometime in late April or May.

Congress is still hearing a lot of opposition to many aspects of the President's budget proposals. This is not simply opposition from conservative Democrats and Republicans; a number of Democrats are concerned that after the stimulus bill and omnibus appropriations, that this is not the time to further increase nondefense discretionary or appropriated spending.

These concerns have been heightened by the Congressional Budget Office's reestimate of the President's budget which projects a deficit of nearly $1.7 trillion (11.9 percent of GDP) in 2009 and $1.1 trillion (7.9 percent of GDP) in FY2010. This is significantly worse than the levels projected by the Administration when it sent up the budget. It reinforces the importance of two aspects of the President's budget proposals: containing health care costs is essential to addressing the long-term fiscal problem, and revenues are going to have to be on the table.

OMB Director Peter Orzag has launched a blog. An entry this week provided more information about one-time increases in discretionary spending for the Census and the FHA that help to explain why the President's levels are not excessive. Add it to your bookmarks!

Both sides of the Hill are engaging in health care reform-related activities. Committees in both bodies are holding hearings. The Finance Committee, which is the lead Committee in the Senate, has signaled that it is working toward marking up a bill in late spring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Sheridan: FY 2010 - FY 2011 State Budget: Weaknesses

The March 18, 2009, issue of State Budgeting Matters is now available on our Website. Visit www.CommunitySolutions.com and look in 'What's New?' on our homepage.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Last Week in Washington - 3/16/09

Congress finally finished the budget process for fiscal year 2009 by passing the Omnibus Appropriations bill. Meanwhile, the President’s budget has been taking lots of hits from both sides of the aisle as Congress develops a budget resolution. Now is a good time to ask for meetings with your Representatives when they’re home for a two-week recess which begins on April 6.


The House and Senate Budget Committee Chairmen are consulting with their members, leadership, and other Committee Chairs to develop a budget resolution will establish a framework for legislative activity on spending and revenue policies for the rest of the year.

The House and Senate Budget Committees have said they intend to mark up their respective versions of the budget resolution the week of March 23 and bring them to the House and Senate floor the week of March 30. Conference would occur during April. There will be a two-week recess for Easter and Passover starting on April 6. (It is possible this schedule will get pushed back if the Budget Committee chairmen need more time to reach agreement on a budget resolution, meaning among Democrats since Republicans are not expected to engage in bipartisan negotiations on this budget.)

Remember that a budget resolution is just a blueprint for legislative action that occurs during the rest of the year. It makes only a few binding decisions, such as the total amount of funding that will be available to the Appropriations Committees for discretionary programs. It also lays out some of the rules and procedures under which other spending legislation may be considered.

The key authorizing committees (those that actually write the laws to carry out policies) are also assessing the President’s budget proposals and policymakers on those Committees are beginning to shape their positions and priorities.

Suggested Action Steps
Please consider sending letters or memos to your members of Congress over the next week and ask them to ensure the budget resolution does the following three things: 1) adopts the President’s discretionary funding levels; 2) makes the tax code more equitable by assuming that, if the middle class tax cuts from 2001/2003 are extended, the Obama improvements in refundable credits permanent — fully offset — are also expected to be part of a tax bill; and 3) supports the adoption of health reform legislation that provides universal coverage and reduces the rate of growth in health care costs.

Members are getting a lot of pushback on the details of the President’s budget so it could make a big difference if you can deliver this message to policymakers who are developing the Budget Resolution — or will be key to its passage — AND to policymakers on the committees that actually will make changes in policies. These include: House Budget Committee: Austria, Jordan, Kaptur; House Appropriations Committee: Kaptur, LaTourette, Ryan; Senate Appropriations Committee: Voinovich; and the House Energy and Commerce Committee: Space, Sutton. If any of these Members represent your area, please consider contacting them in the coming weeks.

And as always, contact me for additional info on any of these issues.

Friday, March 06, 2009


This Week in Washington, March 6

Lots of budget-related discussions are underway. The Omnibus is stalled in the Senate, the President’s budget is being discussed in many committees, and health care and climate change are prominently featured on the legislative agenda for later this spring. Meanwhile, the economic news is pretty dismal. Today’s jobs report indicates that unemployment has grown to 8.1 percent.


Despite having warded off a number of amendments this week, the Senate has been unable to garner the 60 votes needed to adopt the Omnibus bill to fund nine Appropriations bills through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Congress will pass a short-term continuing resolution today and will try again to adopt a larger package next week. We are still hopeful that a deal can be reached but it is possible the Congress will end up passing a year-long appropriations bill, which would continue to freeze funding for most domestic discretionary programs at last year’s levels. These discussions show the continuing difficulty this Congress is having on reaching bipartisan agreements.


The President’s budget proposal is encountering challenges from both sides of the aisle. Senator Voinovich has been an especially harsh critic. Stay posted for more info and advocacy opportunities as the budget continues to be developed.


After a bipartisan meeting yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee has indicated it will discuss health care in three pieces in preparation for a June markup and floor consideration in July.

On the House side, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House hopes to take up its version of health care reform by August.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 02, 2009


March 1, 2009 "State Budgeting Matters" is now posted on our Website!

A sticky wicket is a cricket term that has become a metaphor for difficult circumstances. It is an appropriate metaphor for the large number of policy changes that are included in Governor Strickland's proposed FY 2010 - FY 2011. Dick Sheridan explores these wickets in the latest issue of State Budgeting Matters. Read it here.

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