L.A. aid groups fear deficit cuts following debt ceiling fight

With the agreement that raising the federal debt ceiling would require at least $2.4 trillion in spending cuts, officials at Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA) and Jewish Vocational Service Los Angeles (JVSLA) fear losing funding for programs. 

JFSLA could lose “between several hundred thousand and more than a million [dollars]” annually in federal funds for services for seniors, low-income families and others, according to Nancy Volpert, director of public policy at JFSLA, a Jewish-led social-service organization that provides assistance to anyone in need.

JVSLA, which focuses on helping people seeking jobs, stands to lose between 8 and 33 percent of federal funding for programs that offer career counseling and training, according to Adine Forman, the organization’s government affairs and special projects director.

The debt ceiling legislation, passed on Aug. 2, calls for $917 billion in federal spending cuts over 10 years and the appointment of a bipartisan super committee to recommend an additional $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. Both of these factors could mean decreases in federal funding for the two organizations, which follows trims already in place for the coming year.

In the 2009-2010 fiscal year — the most recent year for which JFSLA has data —JFSLA’s annual budget was $27 million, of which $6 million came from federal funds. JVSLA’s annual budget was $15 million during fiscal year 2009-2010, with approximately $12 million coming from federal, state and local government funding.

Volpert said JFSLA’s biggest concern is the threat of losing funding for its Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP), funded through Medi-Cal, which provides alternative nursing care. If the bipartisan super-committee determines that there should be cuts to Medicaid, it could result in a decrease in funding for Medi-Cal and, in turn, MSSP.

Other JFSLA programs, including the Gramercy Place Family Shelter, a two-year residential program for homeless families, and the JFS Home Secure program, a free home modification program for low- and moderate-income homeowners, also could see cuts to federal funding, Volpert said.

Forman pointed to JVS’ WorkSource Centers as vulnerable, calling it a “huge concern.” The centers provide job counseling and training for individuals, as well as services for employers.

Last week, Forman, along with JVSLA’s Angie Cooper, director of workforce development, and Claudia Finkel, chief operating officer, met with Rep. Henry Waxman to discuss concerns about potential cuts to the WorkSource Centers.

“It went as well as could be expected, given the situation in Washington,” Forman said of the Aug. 11 meeting. “He’s clearly very responsive to our needs and his constituents’ needs … and he understands the situation and understands the plight of our WorkSource Centers.”

In the coming weeks, JVSLA plans to meet with other federal, state and local representatives.

Volpert said that JFSLA is working with The Jewish Federations of North America’s Washington, D.C., office to advocate in Congress for the protection of Medicaid. 

Mark Tajima, a legislative analyst for Los Angeles County, said Medicaid won’t be affected by the $900 billion in cuts required by the debt-ceiling bill, but that the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) — a federal program out of the U.S. Department of Labor that provides funding for the JVS WorkSource Centers — could be.

“On the Republican side, anything that’s seen as government-in-the-business-of-employment” isn’t popular, Tajima said.

Tajima described WIA as “pretty vulnerable” to cuts, and, while he couldn’t guess how much WIA would be cut, he said it will be a “victory for anyone who cares about WIA” if the cuts are only 10 percent.

But, Forman said, “We’re concerned about a 10 percent cut, and we will be even more concerned if this number is elevated.”

Tajima also said the $900 billion could take money away from federal community block grants, which provide funding for JFSLA’s programs.

He said all cuts would be less during the next fiscal year than in future years. The legislation is set up so cuts will be larger in the later years of the 10-year span.

Tajima said the extent of cuts to such programs should become clearer by the end of this year, when an appropriations bill regarding the $900 billion in immediate cuts will be submitted and the super committee is supposed to wrap up its budget plan.