Memphis congressman Steve Cohen has written a letter to the Shelby County Commission in hopes it will reverse an 8-3 vote to defund the county’s Office of Early Childhood and Youth:
“As you continue to consider the FY2012 Shelby County budget in your role as a member of the County Commission, I hope that you will take the time to re-visit the vote you cast this Monday to de-fund the Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth (OECY).
As a former County Commissioner, I understand that oftentimes the proposals laid before you for consideration may not include details about the possible ramifications that could result upon their implementation. Normally, I do not get involved in County Commission business, but the vote that was cast on Monday to de-fund the OECY is one that, should it be implemented, would result in our county losing out on access to millions of federal dollars. By stripping the $450,000 in funding for the OECY, the county will lose approximately $6 million in federal funds for programs that help the neediest among our constituents.
The OECY’s focus on our community’s children is one that is unparalleled. Its child impact study program is the first—and only—one of its kind in the nation. The OECY’s encouragement of community partnerships is a factor that helps private and non-profit organizations across the county apply for grants from the state and federal governments.
To de-fund an initiative that has made such great strides in the few years it has existed would be a grave mistake for the Commission. By not allowing the OECY to achieve its full potential and continue to operate, we will not only lose out on the millions of federal dollars that the county is currently slated to receive, but we will never be able to realize the impact that such an initiative would have on our community’s children and families years from now.
It is my understanding that you will have the opportunity to consider this measure again on June 20th. If you have any questions about the information contained above or the federal funds that the OECY is scheduled to receive should it remain operational, I hope that you will feel free to contact me. I am hopeful that you will sincerely consider the information that I have shared with you about the importance of the Office of Early Childhood and Youth and vote to maintain funding for it when you are again given the opportunity.”