The United Planning Organization (UPO) which funds a broad range of youth, employment and social service programs, will cut back its 1979 funding to numerous community programs, according to UPO board President Walter Lewis.
Stating that "nobody is going to escape the cuts," Lewis declined to say how many would be made. The affected programs, however, will be those receiving discretionary grant funds provided by the Community Service Administration (CSA), the federal government's antipoverty office, and distributed by UPO. Lewis attributed the cuts to a continuing loss of private and other federal funds and indicated that CSA money would have to be spread to more programs.
William Isaac, director of the UPO finance office, said UPO received nearly $9 million dollars in CSA funds last year. UPO has not yet submitted its request for CSA funds for the 1979 funding year beginning Oct. 1, but is expected to receive at least its basic funding of about $6.5 million and perhaps more.
Lewis said 1979 funding priorities will center around adult employment and UPO personnel costs. UPO and its delegate agencies employ more than 1,000 persons.
"UPO proper and its delegate agencies have not cost-of-living increases since 1975," he said. "We have regard for our employes."
To minimize personnel costs, Lewis said the agency cut nearly 80 people from its own employment rolls last year through attrition, job freezes and layoffs. (UPO now has 510 employes). Supply cutbacks also costs, he said.
Among the many UPO programs funded with CSA monies are: food programs for the elderly, community credit unions, and the Neighborhood Planning Councils, a youth program that could be seriously affected by the cutbacks and the agency's emphasis on adult employment.
There are 20 NPC councils throughout the city operating 71 CSA-funded programs that offer employment, job training, academic help and social enrichment to poverty youth, ages 13-21.
The number of youths served by NPC programs has been declining in recent years along with funding. In 1977-78, the NPC served 3.264 youths and adults year-round. In 1975-76 it served more than 22,000 people.
This summer the Department of Recreation will employ 3,000 youths in the Washington Youth Corps, 1,500 in recreation programs and 1,500 in NPC job-training programs.
The NPC program, under the auspices of the D.C. Department of Recreation, has been UPO's major grant recipient since it began in 1968. Last year the NPCs received more than $1 million in UPO funds and $500,000 in other federal funds.
Recently, NPC leaders, NPC youths and community people have begun to mobilize to protest the UPO funding cuts that they said will threaten the future of NPC and add to the city's jobless rate among youths.
"We can't absord any more cuts!" said a startled recreation department official, Curtis M. Taylor Jr., after learning of the impending funding cuts.
Samuel LaBeach, associate director of the recreation department, said he was concerned about the social impact that more youth unemployment would bring.
"We feel the programs have made a great impact on controlling juvenile delinquency," said Labeach. "In the past, when we didn't have these programs, crime was high. If we cut off 50 kids, 100 kids, we're going to have problems. It's problems. It's like being penny wise and pound foolish."
O. J. Johnson, chairman of the 20 elected NPC chairmen, said, "Any type of funding cuts at this point would put us in dire straits. Since we've gotten no indication of a possible funding cut (from UPO) we've proceeded (for 1979). As of June 1, we have voted to fund programs in 1979 and (now) those programs would have to be cut out. We aren't going to do it."
Despite the city's high (48 percent) jobless rate among minority youths and UPO's long association with the NPC, Lewis said, "Our priority is on long-term employment with career opportunities, and we don't see that program doing that."
Lewis said he was not "picking on the NPCs" or demeaning the importance of youth employment. But he said teen-agers did not have to work if their parents were fully employed. Parents could then adequately provide for the youths.
"If I have to make a decision for providing funds for an adult breadwinner with children, or teen-agers, the other has to get our priority," said Lewis. "All adults have to work. Where do we get the idea that all teen-agers have to work?"
"I don't understand his rationale," laughed Dorothy Boyd, chairwoman of NPC 13 which serves more than 1,000 poverty youths in an area encompassing most of DuPont Circle.
"My youth chairman has eight people in his family and it's headed by his mother. He's 16 years old and this year he's holding down two summer jobs because he needs the money to suplement her income." Boyd said NPC youths working year-round average $40 a week.
Numerous NPC chairmen said NPC jobs helped youths pay college tuition, buy school clothes, books and supplement family incomes. The academic programs, they said, offered youth help with speech, math and remedial reading programs. Extensive academic training also helped many youths enter job training programs, they said.
The various NPCs offer job-training in secretarial skills, graphic arts, landscaping, pesticide control, maintenance of video equipment, communications, tailoring, minor auto and bicyle repair, among other job skills.