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June 16, 2003 ELCA News Service
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ELCA Seeks Government Funding for Service Providers


Chicago (ELCA)-JAC* — In a letter to members of Congress, Kay A. Bengston, assistant director for domestic policy, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (LOGA), Washington, D.C., asked for the restoration of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to its peak level of $2.8 billion. LOGA is the federal public policy advocacy office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The SSBG was created in the 1980s under the Reagan Administration, said Bengston. The grant provided as much as $2.8 billion per year to provide states with flexible funding to be used in programs such as child care, mental health care, rehabilitation programs, meal programs and more.

Because of recent federal tax cuts, domestic programs are facing large cutbacks, said Bengston. "The president isn't going to support $2.8 billion," she said, referring to the funding level of the grant.

The funding level for the SSBG is $1.7 billion a year, down from approximately $2.38 billion each of the years from 1996-2000.

Many faith-based service organizations benefit from the SSBG including Lutheran social services agencies, the largest providers of human services in the nation, said Bengston.

"The church has partnered with government for a long time to support these programs," she said. "When the state doesn't pay adequately, it's very hard for those providing services."

Raising the SSBG back up to $2.8 billion would provide the funding necessary for programs to continue important services for a wide range of people, Bengston said.

LOGA provides a voice in government through phone calls, briefings, gathering and compiling information and more, she said. "Advocates speak for those who can't speak for themselves," she said.

* Jessica A. Crane is completing her bachelor of arts degree at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. This summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media production.