A compromise omnibus budget package that seemingly had enough support to ensure passage in the Senate was withdrawn late Thursday night (December 16) after several Republicans deserted under pressure from Tea Party activists. The draft bill would have provided $60 million for the Promise Neighborhoods program, $90 million for Choice Neighborhoods, and $30 million for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program.
Despite the setback, the Obama administration remains committed to its neighborhood agenda and is reviewing its options.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) thought he had the votes he needed as late as Thursday morning, but a barrage of attacks on the bill's $8 billion in earmarks caused several Republicans to withdraw their support. Congress is now expected to pass a continuing resolution that will fund most federal programs at their current levels until early March, when the newly elected Congress will make final decisions on the budget for the current fiscal year.
If the incoming Congress, which convenes in January, chooses to flat-fund existing programs, Promise Neighborhoods would receive $10 million for another round of planning grants and no implementation funds. Choice Neighborhoods would receive another $65 million.
The administration may have other options, however. It has always been the case that most funding for implementing local neighborhood initiatives would need to come from a variety of funding streams. The Obama administration will now need to redouble its efforts to find these sources of funding.
Moreover, the administration indicated last summer that it was looking at reconfiguring several programs as place-based programs as part of its next budget submission. That budget proposal is due out in February.
According to a statement released today (December 17) from Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, the office that oversees the Promise Neighborhoods program:
We are inspired by communities around the country who are committed to Promise Neighborhoods. Scores of organizations are preparing their needs assessments, developing data systems, and building cradle-to-career solutions with the ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Communities are doing this important work regardless of the Federal budget situation because it’s the right strategy to dramatically improve educational outcomes in our toughest neighborhoods.
That said, we remain committed and are working tirelessly with Congress and our Federal agency and non-profit partners to provide the tools, resources, and incentives to support Promise Neighborhoods.
December 22 Update: Congress has passed a new continuing resolution that will fund federal programs at existing levels (with a few minor changes) until March 4, 2011.