A coalition of 20 statewide organizations has condemned Congress' plan to lump nearly 30 federal; health, education, welfare and social programs into a handful of state-controlled block grants while cutting funds for the programs by 25 percent, and urged state officials to schedule of public hearings to decide how best to use the remaining funds.
The coalition argued that, by allowing states wide discretion in allocating block grant funds while lifting federal restrictions governing some programs, the plan represents "an abandonment of national priorities" and would result in fighting between groups needing public aid.
In a statement released this week, the Virginia Committee for a Fair Budget said the plan would mean "less assistance to needy families and brutal political struggle at the state level where the poor and others without clout will be the losers." Members of the committee include the state division of the American Dederation of State and County Municipal Employees, the Arlington Community Action Program, the state branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.
Under both the House and Senate versions, federal education aid for the handicapped and the disadvantaged would be left substantially intact, although some federal restrictions would be lifted. But there are major differences between the two chambers in other areas.
The block grant proposals are part of the overall budget package sent to Congress by the new administration earlier this year. Joint congressional committees are currently meeting to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of the block grant plans approved earlier this month.