A crowd of around 100 people gathered last week in St. Philip’s Baptist Church on Staten Island to rally against proposed cuts to a federal grant that aids the poor, seniors, immigrants and youth.
The Community Services Block Grant reaches about 800 people on Staten Island through eight community based organizations. Some Republican proposals in the House suggested fully eliminating the grant, but even President Obama, a former community organizer himself, called for cutting the $700 million grant by half.
City officials from the Department of Youth and Community Development, the agency that distributes the federal grant money, described how the cuts could potentially deprive the Island of $600,000, but the crowd wanted to hear from the man who would vote on them—Rep. Michael Grimm. Local resident Sharon Peake grew frustrated with city officials, and called for Grimm’s representative, who sat in the front row, to step up.
“He shouldn’t be here just to listen,” said Peake. “He should be here to answer the questions that you all can’t answer.”
A reluctant William Smith, Grimm’s communications director, stepped before the crowd, but offered little by way of answers, except that he heard a lot of negative feedback.
“Congressman Grimm has not made a decision yet,” said Smith. “We don’t have a position.
Grimm will now have more time to make that decision, thanks to a temporary spending measure passed by Congress last week that will keep the government operating until April. But if the crowd at St. Philip’s serves as an indicator, residents of the Island’s North Shore are growing impatient. Organizers encouraged members of the audience to join in the letter-writing campaign Grimm, along with Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
“CSBG creates programs that offer people a hand up in life,” the letter states, “not a hand out. Without your support of this program, many people in need in our community would be at risk.”