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Competitive Federal grants to faith-based organizations (FBOs) increased for the third straight year in FY2005. More than $2.1 billion in grants were awarded to religious organizations in FY2005 by seven federal agencies. This is up from last year (FY04) when $2.004 billion in grants were awarded to faith-based groups across the same agencies.
In March 2006, President Bush signed Executive Order 13397 creating the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in response to Hurricane Katrina, the Center is charged with coordinating DHS's efforts to remove regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and community organizations in the provision of disaster relief and recovery services.
In 2006, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives hosted nine conferences, providing training, legal and technical assistance to over 5,500 new and potential Federal grantees. Since 2002, the Office has hosted 28 conferences across the country, training over 26,000 people.
In February 2006, President Bush signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which reauthorized welfare reform and also extended for five years a policy called Charitable Choice, which protects the religious identity of faith-based organizations providing federally funded social services. The law also makes Charitable Choice applicable to state-administered funding under two new grant programs -- the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives.
In August 2006, President Bush signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which included new charitable giving incentives totaling about $1.4 billion over ten years. These incentives include enhanced deductions for donations of food inventory and a provision under which individuals can transfer money from an IRA to a charity with no tax penalty.
USDA removed a key barrier to the work of faith-based and community organizations that offer drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. This action also supported individuals seeking help for their drug or alcohol addictions to make an important personal choice as to which recovery program they enter without fear of losing their food stamp benefits. The letter, signed by Secretaries Leavitt and Johanns, underscored that a faith-based or community drug or alcohol treatment facility does not need to be licensed by the state in order for its residents to qualify for food stamps. As long as a facility is recognized by the State's Title XIX agency as furthering the purpose of rehabilitating drug addicts and/or alcoholics, the residents of the facility may retain food stamp benefits and the facility itself may be an authorized food stamp retailer.
The Veterans Administration used its loan guarantee for multifamily transitional housing for homeless veterans pilot program to complete construction on the St. Leo Center in Chicago, Illinois. This project, constructed in partnership with the Catholic Charities of Chicago, will provide housing, health and employment and services to 141 homeless veterans. Although the facility just opened, St. Leos is full and has a waiting list of 150.
The Department of Labors pioneering prisoner-reentry pilot project, Ready4Work, concluded its three-years of operations with strong results in reducing recidivism and improving employment outcomes for ex-offenders. With 4,465 adult ex-offenders served, participant recidivism rates are an impressively low 1.9% at 6-months after release, and 5.0% at 1 year after release. Both figures are about half the national average for ex-offenders with similar criminal and social backgrounds.
The Department of Labors SHARE Network enables states to create expansive Web-based referral systems between One-Stop Career Centers and FBCOs that provide supportive services that One-Stops dont have, like transportation, childcare, or clothing for a job interview. SHARE also locates Access Points to One-Stop resources within volunteer-staffed FBCOs in underserved neighborhoods. North Dakota was the first state to implement the SHARE Network. Today, in a state with a population of less than 700,000, more than 2,500 unique visitors each month use the states SHARE Network to search, research and locate providers of workforce-related services. Eight states are currently implementing SHARE Networks, and eight more will launch SHARE in 2007.
The Department of Labors grassroots grants enable small faith-based and community organizations to partner with local One-Stop Career Centers, with a special focus on the hardest-to-serve clients. A new evaluation revealed that FY 2005s 48 Grassroots grantees used their modest $25,000 grants to leverage a remarkable 14,275 volunteer hours. In addition to other services, they helped 1,460 high-need individuals to enter employment; significantly, 1,007 of these individuals were enabled to retain their jobs for at least 6 months. This year, 557 organizations applied for Grassroots grantsmore than for any other DOL grant program. Fifty-five winners received grants of $50,000-75,000.
The Department of Commerce through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $3.5 million in 2006 in the St. Patrick Center (SPC) SPC the nations largest private-sector assistance program for the homeless in St. Louis, Missouri. These funds will support Project BEGIN (Business, Employment, Growth, Incomes and Neighborhood) which will provide in-house job training, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities in partnership with light manufacturing and service-oriented businesses that will lease space from SPC. SPC will also offer workforce training skills in conjunction with Ranken Technical College, through a comprehensive Trades Training Program. Project BEGIN will demonstrate the effectiveness of bringing meaningful jobs and valuable trades training directly into a professionally operated, social service agency that deals with a large number of minority and impoverished clients.
In 2006, our Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives hosted 110 workshops, providing grant writing training to over 9,500 new and potential federal grantees. Since 2002, our Centers have hosted over 350 workshops across the country, training over 30,000 people.