HD Committee Focuses on Budget, Social Security, Education

Article excerpt

The impact of the current fiscal crisis on education, job training, home energy assistance, Head Start and Social Security was the focus of a recent meeting of the Human Development (HD) Steering Committee in Dodge City, Kan.

The meeting, chaired by Betty Taylor, vice mayor of Eugene, Ore., and hosted by Jim Sherer, vice mayor of Dodge City, was held June 2-4.

Underscored by what are likely to be dramatic cuts to a wide range of federal programs important to cities and towns, many of which are included in the HD Committee's portfolio, committee members shared their concerns about what it would mean if education or job training funds were cut.

"Clearly there is going to be an impact on our cities and towns if the federal government continues to cut funding for education and job training programs, and abdicates the commitments it has made to Head Start and energy assistance programs," said Taylor. "We need the federal government to fund these programs so that our students receive a quality education and those who are out of work get the skills they need to find high-wage jobs, and those without resources have safety net programs to fall back on."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Cathedral City, Calif., councilmember and NLC Board member Greg Pettis shared Taylor's view and added: "We must remember that the kind of job a person gets is just as important as having a job. A dislocated worker who gets a job at a fast food restaurant is not going to be able to support himself or his family. A job like that is not the answer. We need to ensure that unemployed workers are able to get high-skills, high-wage jobs."

Diane Linver, a Lenexa, Kan., council member, expressed concern over the federal government's efforts to shift program costs to cities and towns. "Cities and towns cannot be expected to pick up funding for these programs; we are already stretched budget-wise and we need the federal government to continue to help us fund these important programs."

Following the budget discussions, the committee switched gears and began to look at the substantive recommendations they would like to make around Social Security.

"Social Security: Its History and the Types of Services Provided by the Social Security System," a presentation by Brandon Werth, the district manager of the Dodge City Social Security Office, provided committee members with the history of Social Security and information on how it operates and is funded. A copy of the presentation can be found on the Human Development page of the NLC website.

Werth addressed many of the misconceptions about Social Security and also underscored what Social Security has achieved. "This is an important program for seniors, the disabled and survivors, and because of this program many who would otherwise face serious financial difficulty are actually able to remain financially stable."

NLC staff pointed out that the Social Security system and other state and local retirement plans probably helped ease the impact of the recession on seniors by providing them with a guaranteed cushion even as the value of their other assets plummeted. …