A coalition of 63 national organizations yesterday condemned the administration's plan to combine dozens of health, education, welfare and social services programs into a handful of giant "block grants" to the states -- with a spending cut of about 25 percent and state governments given wide discretion on how to spend the money.
The organizations said that by melding numerous programs and relaxing requirements on how to allocate the money, while eliminating a variety of ground rules for the programs, the administration plan would have a "devastating" effect on civil right and on targeting aid to those for whom Congress intended the money.
"Untargeted, undirected, unmonitored and unexamined block grants will mean far less assistance to those who need these services," the coalition said in letters to House and Senate members.
Among those signing the letters were the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the League of Women Voters, the Lutheran Council, the United Auto Workers, the National Urban League, the Children's Defense Fund and the American Public Health Association.
The administration argues that eliminating categorical program rules and giving states more flexibility on how to apportion the money would make better use of scarce dollars and eliminate waste and red tape.
However, its proposals for two big education block grants and four social services and health block grants have fared poorly on Capitol Hill so far, and final approval is questionable. The House Ways and Means Committee has rejected the two proposals under its jurisdiction, and both the health and education proposals appear in trouble in committees.