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JCEO exec outlines danger of potential cuts

PLATTSBURGH - The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties could be among organizations that could lose critical funding from the federal government.

Bruce E. Garcia, executive director of the nonprofit organization based in Plattsburgh, addressed the Clinton County Legislature during a regular meeting of the board Feb. 23, citing his concerns over a proposal by Congress to reduce funding for federal Community Services Block Grant by 42 percent. The grant provides $265,000 which the organization then combines with more than $350,000 of other resources for its outreach efforts, said Garcia. President Barack Obama's budget request for the 2012 fiscal year also includes changes in funding for community action, which will reduce CSBG funding even further.

"The remaining funding would be granted on a competitive basis," added Garcia, "a process which traditionally has not favored rural areas such as ours. So, if the president's plan is passed, it could well mean the loss of all CSBG funding for Clinton County."

That would have a devastating effect for the two-county region, said Garcia, considering JCEO has contracts with 11 towns in Clinton County which fund community outreach centers. The centers provide essential services for residents, said Garcia, such as weatherization application assistance; assistance with shut-off or eviction notices, and information and referrals to other services such as food stamps, the state's Home Energy Assistance Program and monthly food co-op packages through the Regional Food Bank.

"This would virtually close all of our community outreach centers," Garcia told legislators, adding each center also provides emergency food packages and collects and distributes clothing to low-income families and senior citizens.

According to Garcia, the towns each pay a portion of the expense for employing the outreach workers, which totals $175,750. JCEO utilizes the CSBG funding to complete the wage and fringe benefits package, amounting to $54,000.

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