By John Lynds
We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about ‘change’ in American politics from all political parties. But real change comes when people go against the trend and focus their efforts on helping people.
That is exactly what East Boston APAC and its parent company was prepared to do if a government shutdown became a reality last week.
ABCD made the decision late Friday that if a government shutdown did occur, the federally funded agency and its neighborhood sites like APAC would remain open to help the low-income local families.
“If a government shutdown occurred, we would continue to keep our programs open for as long as possible,” said ABCD President and CEO John J. Drew. “This represents a risk but the needs of the people we serve are too important to do otherwise.”
Drew added that ABCD and APAC would also continue to advocate for a federal budget that reflects the needs of those who have the least.
“We have launched a major fundraising campaign. The ABCD Neighborhood Fund to help sustain and enhance services for our neighbors in need like East Boston,” said Drew “We are looking for people to join with us in fighting for a fair and humane budget. I ask for residents to stand with us by supporting the ABCD Neighborhood Fund. Together, we can sustain and strengthen the resources that our most vulnerable neighbors depend on.”
Back in February, just two months after extending a tax cut for the wealthy, President Barack Obama slashed Community Service Block Grants (CSBG) — a key source of federal funding that is used to help low-income families in East Boston–by 50 percent.
The cut left APAC and ABCD wondering about the future. APAC, whose office is responsible for running Fuel Assistance, Earned Income Tax Credit, Summer Works and Head Start programs, now has to take the cuts one day at a time and hope for the best.
“We are currently on day-to-day work notice based on funding,” said APAC Director Amy Lima, meaning employees now come to work and either stay or are sent home based on funding. “It’s really scary but right now we have to tighten out belts and try our best to reserve money for the future so we can continue our work in the community.”
While the cuts loom over the APAC office, the group of dedicated social workers is trucking along even in the face of cuts and the recent talk of a government shutdown.
“It is still business as usual, so we are starting our outreach for Summer Works and kids now have the opportunity to apply on line,” said Lima. “Fuel Assistance is still going strong and the Earned Income Tax Credit program is also in full swing.”
But with so many programs funded by CSBG, Lima fears APAC may face extinction.
“Fuel Assistance, Head Start and the other programs that we do are all looking at a 50 percent reduction,” said Lima. “Everyone is going to feel the effects of these cuts.”
Last year APAC and ABCD reached over 94,700 low-income households in East Boston and across Boston with desperately needed basic services and with the tools to build increased self-sufficiency.
“We will continue to be there for children, youth, working families and elders,” said Drew.