Budget season for Fiscal Year 2018 is well under way, but Congress has taken no steps to finalize spending for the current fiscal year.
While House and Senate appropriators have finished a negotiated Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) spending bill, the bill has not been sent to the floor for action. Funding under the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28. Now is the time to stand up for planning by contacting your elected officials.
National Community Development Week
April 17–21, 2017
There may be no better time to reach your representatives than during a congressional recess. Luckily, April recess is here, and just in time for National Community Development Week — a national observance that honors the work made possible by federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) funding.
APA is joining with community development organizations across the country April 17–21 to recognize the value of such programs.
Legislators are home in their districts and states today through April 21. That's why we're calling on planners now to urge their representatives to pass a full FY 2017 THUD spending bill before the current CR expires.
And you're not in this alone. We've added new and updated resources to our suite of tools to make you the best and most effective advocate you can be. We've even planned out a week of advocacy action items planners can leverage to explain why fully funding community development programs matters.
Advocacy Prep Work
Use these tools in the Advocate's Toolbox to get ready to speak up on behalf of planners everywhere:
Take Advocacy Action Every Day
We're calling on planners to articulate for their representatives the importance of fully funding HUD programs like CDBG and HOME by participating in these four daily outreach efforts:
Monday: Call Your Representatives
Start a dialogue with a call to your representatives' Washington, D.C., offices. Call your representative from the House, one of your two Senators, or contact all three. Remember, it is their job to hear from you.
Q: What do I say when I call my representative's office in Washington, D.C.?
Congressional Call Script Example
"Hello my name is [NAME] I'm a constituent of [CONGRESSIONAL OFFICIAL'S NAME], I live [ADDRESS]. I am contacting you today to address my concerns around the President's proposed budget, and why I believe [CONGRESSIONAL OFFICIAL'S NAME] should support funding programs like CDBG and HOME. These programs are essential to growing economic opportunity, and continuing investment in community development in our district. Without them, many small businesses, and vulnerable people in our communities will suffer.
Please urge [CONGRESSIONAL OFFICIAL'S NAME] to protect these programs by ensuring that they are properly funded, and that they pass a full FY 2017 THUD spending bill before the expiration of the current continuing resolution on April 28."
Tuesday: Tweet Your Legislator
President Trump and the U.S. Congress are very active on social media, particularly Twitter. Send one of our pre-drafted tweets — or make your own — highlighting how CDBG and HOME are making an impact in your community.
Remember to include hashtag #CDWeek2017 in your tweet. We'll be following the hashtag closely and retweeting planners who participate.
Pro Tip: You have only 140 characters, so make the most of it. Focus on the outcomes of federal funding programs, rather than the program details.
Q: What should I include in my tweet to my legislator?
- Official hashtag: #CDWEEK2017
- Your legislator's twitter handle
- Share how it impacted you or your community
"1,200+ state and local gov'ts leverage #CDBG funds to create affordable housing, jobs, #infrastructure #CDWEEK2017 [Insert representative's twitter handle]"
"#HOME has preserved and created 1.2 million new affordable housing options for families since 1992 #CDWEEK2017 [Insert representative's twitter handle]"
"Nationally, every $1 of #CDBG leverages another $3.65 in community investment #CDWEEK2017 [Insert representative's twitter handle]"
"Planning strong communities requires support from federal partners #CDWEEK2017 [Insert representative's twitter handle]"
Wednesday: Submit a Letter to the Editor
Local staffers and lawmakers alike look through the newspapers daily, so writing a letter to the editor is a perfect way to convey your message of support for HOME and CDBG.
Use our letter to the editor template and add your personal story to the piece to really portray the benefits of these programs.
First time writing a letter to the editor? Reference APA's Communications Guide first.
Q: How should I format my letter to the editor?
Letter to the Editor Template
[LOCATION NAME] is what it is today because of thoughtful planning combined with federal investment through programs like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) or HOME Investment Partnership Program.
Now, the Trump administration wants to eliminate both programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget.
CDBG funds maximize our community's efforts already underway — [PROGRAM NAME] (e.g. from senior services like the Meals on Wheels program to improvements in our infrastructure and even job training). CDBG is a versatile funding source that helps communities like ours go the extra mile. Nationally, every dollar of CDBG leverages $3.65 in additional funding.
HOME funding helps expand affordable housing efforts, keeping those most at risk from homelessness. It can mean the difference between a roof over someone's head and cold night on the street.
Where would [LOCATION NAME] be without federal investments? We might eventually obtain our goal, it will just take longer, and we'll have to make tougher cost-benefit decisions, forgoing some programs for the sake of others.
We work in, and call [LOCATION NAME] our home. It's time to raise our voices and tell our [CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE'S NAME] to support federal funding programs that make stronger, more just communities — like ours — possible.
[YOUR NAME & YOUR TITLE]
[Name Chapter of the American Planning Association]
The American Planning Association is a nonprofit membership and education organization advocating for strong, just, and resilient communities throughout the U.S.
Thursday: Post to Facebook Photos of Community Spaces Made Possible With HOME, CDBG
Snap a picture of a community space or person who has been impacted by CDBG or HOME funding, then post it to APA's Facebook page. By collecting real stories from real people, APA will demonstrate to lawmakers how the elimination of these resources will stifle continued development in our nation's localities.
Pro Tip: There's no word limit for Facebook. Use this space to explain the story behind the photo. Details like the number of new jobs created and affordable housing units developed are always attractive to legislators. Finish strong by tagging your representative in the post. Like Twitter, legislators use Facebook to convey what they're doing for constituents. Leverage this idea to get their attention.
Q: What should I include in my Facebook post?
- Picture relating to the success of CDBG or HOME
- Caption detailing how CDBG or HOME have impacted your community
- Official hashtag: #CDWEEK2017
- Post on APA's Facebook page: @AmericanPlanningAssociation
Facebook Post Examples:
"CDBG and HOME funds make local housing projects possible. Housing rehabilitation efforts like this one would not be nearly as effective, nor would they draw in as much local investment and support, if CDBG and HOME did not provide the much needed assistance. #CDWEEK2017"
"Thanks to CDBG funds, families who were previously surrounded by raw sewage when it rained, are now able to have sewer systems that run efficiently. #CDWEEK2017"
"Access to community centers and safe neighborhoods are made possible due to the investment of CDBG funds, which have helped dramatically improve the quality of life of the entire community. #CDWEEK2017"
Friday: Best Advocacy Moments of the Week
Keep an eye on our social media channels as we recap our best advocacy moments of the week. Follow @APAadvocates on Twitter, check our APA Facebook Page, and look out for a Planners' Advocacy Network email showcasing our best advocates.
Share Your Plans
APA wants to recognize all our outstanding advocates, so loop us in and let us know directly what your National Community Development Week plans are as they develop. Remember, even if you've taken part in advocacy events through other community development organizations, do it again with APA. We are your national organization representing the interests of planners.
Top image: Row houses in Baltimore. Photo by Flickr user Dorret (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
About the Authors
Emily Pasi is APA's outreach and communications manager. Trevor Grady is government affairs associate at APA.