Take Action! Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Non-Defense Discretionary Programs

Now is the time to take action.
Now is the time to let Congress know that programs like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), or the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program must not be cut.

The president’s fiscal year 2018 budget, if adopted, would substantially reduce or eliminate programs important to regional councils. The upcoming congressional recess (Saturday, April 8 – Sunday, April 23) provides an excellent opportunity to meet with your congressional delegation and tell them how much the federal funds matter to cities and counties, and how difficult it would be if these programs were eliminated.

Arrange meetings with your senators and representatives to educate them about your region, highlight your achievements, and show them how important federal funds are to the success of those programs. Provide them with concrete examples of the impact that potential cuts will have on these programs. Articulate specifics like: If we lose our TIGER grants, we will not be able to complete X number of road projects and we will need to terminate X number of employees (see step 3).

Here are a few steps to guide you in your advocacy efforts:
  1. Be sure to take one of your elected officials to each meeting. Our experience is that this can be very helpful and will add credibility that can be critical to a meeting’s success.
  2. Once you have gotten a commitment from your local elected officials, contact the appropriate congressional office to set up a meeting. Tell them you would like to meet with your senator/ representative, and ask them for only a small amount of their time. If they push back and try to assign you to a staff person, tell them you will be bringing one or more local elected officials who would very much like to meet with the senator or representative, and that the issues you want to speak about are very important for your region. Ultimately, it’s okay if you have to meet with a staff person, but at this particular time the senator or representative would be best.
  3. Be prepared. They need to know how significant these potential cuts are to the future of so many of the programs you operate. They need to know how your community improvement efforts would falter if CDBG were eliminated. They need to know how many households will go without heat this winter because the LIHEAP program was eliminated. They need to know that an important intersection improvement project will not get done if TIGER grants are done away with.
  4. Bring simple, straightforward briefs that summarize the programs your region is implementing, describe what your regional council does, how you do it, and why each program is so important. If you have brochures and annual reports bring those along as well, but don’t make these materials the focus of your meeting.
  5. See what commitments you can get them to make at the conclusion of the meeting. If they respond positively to any or all of your budget and appropriations requests, ask them if they are willing to be a congressional champion for one or more of the issues. If they are willing to be a champion, please ask them if we, NARC, can reach out to their Washington office, and to whom.
  6. Ask your senator or representative to identify a staff person for future contact.
  7. Invite your senator or representative to one of your program sites, whether it is a road building project, a new business that resulted from economic development activities, a dangerous intersection that is being fixed, a senior day care program, or something else. You want them to see firsthand what those federal funds that they appropriate are achieving, and how much the federal funding you receive is making a difference in the region.
  8. Thank them for the meeting and the support they agreed to provide.
  9. Send a thank you email.

If you obtain a meeting, please share that with NARC. We would appreciate knowing that you had a meeting, with whom you met, what was discussed, and what was the outcome. Please email this information to Neil Bomberg, senior policy advisor, at neil@narc.org.

In the next few days we will provide talking points to help you simplify your advocacy work and make your meetings more productive.