Pri­or­ity shift


The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - Sources: The Washington Post; The As­so­ci­ated Press; CNN; Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get By Steven Muf­son and Tracy Jan

“To keep Amer­i­cans safe, we have made tough choices that have been put off for too long. But we have also made nec­es­sary in­vest­ments that are long over­due.” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, in a state­ment ti­tled “Amer­ica First” that ac­com­pa­nied the bud­get “The left is not go­ing to let him de­crease non-de­fense dis­cre­tionary to the ex­tent that he wants to. We’re go­ing to have to find a dif­fer­ent way to bal­ance the bud­get.” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho

If you’re a poor per­son in Amer­ica, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bud­get pro­posal is not for you. Trump has un­veiled a bud­get that would slash or abol­ish pro­grams that have pro­vided low-in­come Amer­i­cans with help on vir­tu­ally all fronts.

Dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year, Trump vowed that the so­lu­tion to poverty was giv­ing poor peo­ple in­cen­tives to work. But most of the pro­posed cuts in his bud­get tar­get pro­grams de­signed to help the work­ing poor, as well as those who are job­less, cope.

And many of them carry out their mis­sions by dis­burs­ing money to the states, which es­tab­lish their own cri­te­ria.

“This is a bud­get that pulled the rug out from work­ing fam­i­lies and hurts the very peo­ple whom Pres­i­dent

Trump promised to stand up for in ru­ral Amer­ica and in small towns,” said Melissa Boteach, vice pres­i­dent of the poverty-to-pros­per­ity pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, a lib­eral think tank.

The White House bud­get cuts will fall hard­est on small com­mu­ni­ties that Trump won, where one in three peo­ple are liv­ing pay­check to pay­check.

The bud­get pro­poses hous­ing “re­forms” that add up to more than $6 bil­lion of cuts.

It would elim­i­nate the U.S. In­ter­a­gency Coun­cil on Home­less­ness, which co­or­di­nates the fed­eral re­sponse to home­less­ness across 19 fed­eral agen­cies. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­forms in­clude elim­i­nat­ing fund­ing for a $3 bil­lion Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant pro­gram, one of the long­est con­tin­u­ously run HUD pro­grams that’s been in ex­is­tence since 1974.

The pro­gram pro­vides cities with money to ad­dress a range of com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment needs such as af­ford­able hous­ing, reha- bil­i­tat­ing homes in neigh­bor­hoods hit hard­est by fore­clo­sures, and pre­vent­ing or elim­i­nat­ing slums and com­mu­nity blight. It also pro­vides fund­ing for Meals on Wheels, a na­tional non­profit that de­liv­ers food to home-bound seniors.

Meals on Wheels’ vol­un­teers served 3,838 seniors in 2016 in the Den­ver area. In all 577,300 meals were pro­vided, pro­gram of­fi­cials said. There are also 30 din­ing sites in the seven-county metro area that serve meals to seniors 60 or older. That pro­gram served 4,351 with 203,428 meals last year.

Robert Rec­tor, a se­nior fel­low who fo­cuses on wel­fare at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­va­tive Washington-based think tank, calls the com­mu­nity block grants a “slush fund for ur­ban gov­ern­ment.”

The White House touts its cuts to what the ad­min­is­tra­tion char­ac­ter­izes as “a num­ber of lower-pri­or­ity pro­grams” as a way to “pro­mote fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity.” In ac­tu­al­ity, it guts fed­eral fund­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing and kicks the fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of those pro­grams to states and lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

Gone would be $35 mil­lion in fund­ing for well-known pro­grams such as Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity and YouthBuild USA, fair hous­ing plan­ning, and home­less as­sis­tance, among other hous­ing help for needy Amer­i­cans.

Other tar­gets in­clude fund­ing for neigh­bor­hood de­vel­op­ment and a home-buy­ing pro­gram through which low-in­come in­di­vid­u­als help build their own homes. Trump also plans to cut the Home In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship Pro­gram, the largest fed­eral grant to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments that is de­signed to cre­ate af­ford­able hous­ing.

“There is no co­or­di­nated plan for how to ful­fill the same mis­sion. Say­ing states, lo­cal gov­ern­ments and phi­lan­thropy are go­ing to help is just pass­ing the buck,” said a HUD of­fi­cial. The of­fi­cial said work­ers at the agency Thurs­day morn­ing were feel­ing de­mor­al­ized and wor­ried.

“This is just a tough, tough time,” the of­fi­cial said. “HUD is no dif­fer­ent than any other do­mes­tic agency in just feel­ing as though these cuts are all very ar­bi­trary and un­nec­es­sary.”

Poor peo­ple need not lean on com­mu­nity banks for fi­nan­cial help ei­ther, be­cause Trump plans to elim­i­nate the $210 mil­lion now ded­i­cated to­ward Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Fi­nan­cial In­sti­tu­tions. The pro­gram in­vests in com­mu­nity banks that pro­vide loans and fi­nan­cial ser­vices to peo­ple liv­ing in some of the most dis­tressed com­mu­ni­ties of the coun­try.

“Cut­ting that pro­gram would be noth­ing short of a dis­as­ter, and the rip­ple ef­fect would be felt in ur­ban ar­eas and some ru­ral ar­eas all over Amer­ica,” said Michael A. Grant, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion also would elim­i­nate:

• The En­ergy Depart­ment’s weath­er­iza­tion as­sis­tance pro­gram, which dates to 1976.

• The Low In­come Home En­ergy As­sis­tance Pro­gram, which helps home­own­ers cover en­ergy costs or re­pair fur­naces and air con­di­tion­ers.

• The Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Block Grant, a $715 mil­lion pro­gram that funds more than 1,000 anti-poverty or­ga­ni­za­tions.

• The Le­gal Ser­vices Corp., an in­de­pen­dent agency that pro­vided $343 mil­lion to 134 le­gal aid or­ga­ni­za­tions for the poor who are tan­gled up in cases of wrong­ful evic­tion, cus­tody dis­putes, child sup­port or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

De­fense 2018 bud­get: $574 bil­lion Change: +$52.3 bil­lion

Home­land Se­cu­rity 2018 bud­get: $44.1 bil­lion Change: +$2.8 bil­lion

Hous­ing 2018 bud­get: $40.7 bil­lion Change: -$6.2 bil­lion

State Depart­ment 2018 bud­get: $27.1 bil­lion Change: -$10.9 bil­lion

EPA 2018 bud­get: $5.7 bil­lion Change: -$2.6 bil­lion

Trans­porta­tion 2018 bud­get: $16.2 bil­lion Change: -$2.4 bil­lion

Vet­er­ans Af­fairs 2018 bud­get: $78.9 bil­lion Change: +$5.9 bil­lion

Agri­cul­ture 2018 bud­get: $17.9 bil­lion Change: -$4.7 bil­lion

En­ergy 2018 bud­get: $28 bil­lion Change: -$1.7 bil­lion

Jus­tice 2018 bud­get: $27.7 bil­lion Change: -$1.1 bil­lion

Health and Hu­man S er­vices 2018 bud­get: $65.1 bil­lion Change: -$15.1 bil­lion

Com­merce 2018 bud­get: $7.8 bil­lion Change: -$1.5 bil­lion

NASA 2018 bud­get: $19.1 bil­lion Change: -$0.2 bil­lion

Trea­sury 2018 bud­get: $11.2 bil­lion Change: -$0.5 bil­lion

Corps of En­gi­neers 2018 bud­get: $5 bil­lion Change: -$1 bil­lion

La­bor 2018 bud­get: $9.6 bil­lion Change: -$2.5 bil­lion

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