Battle Trump on CDBG grants

Opinion: Editorials

March 14th, 2017 4:07 PM

By Editorial

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There's a lot of bluster in Trump world, and among movement conservatives generally, about the failings of the federal government. Inefficient, corrupt, disconnected, etc. That's the basis for the persistent calls to shift federal monies and programs from D.C. out to the states, those great laboratories of innovation.

So explain then how the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) is reportedly on the budget bubble as Trump looks to disembowel all domestic programs to feed the beast of greater military spending. CDBG, which dates all the way back to Gerald Ford and has always garnered bi-partisan support, actually spreads funding beyond state capitals all the way out to individual communities.

Like Oak Park. 

As President Trump prepares to unleash his budget this week, the Washington Post and other outlets report that the Department of Housing and Urban Development faces up to $6 billion in budget cuts. Of that, half could come from ending the CBDG grant program. 

What does that mean to a town like Oak Park if CBDG and its like-minded Emergency Solutions Grant program fall victim to Trump whisperer Steve Bannon's expressed plan for the "deconstruction of the administrative state"?

It means direct and immediate pain for a host of local social service agencies which serve low and moderate income households — the target of all CDBG grants. The roughly $1.65 million designated for Oak Park in the current year would be lost if these programs are axed.

That would drain four buckets of local funding. The village government itself retains a notable portion of CDBG funds for administration of its housing programs which support diversity and also to fund street level capital projects such as alley repairs. A portion of the overall grant is doled out by a hard-working volunteer commission to a raft of nonprofits such as the YMCA's single room occupancy program, the dental program at The Children's Clinic and the drop-in center run by NAMI.

Hit enormously hard would be Housing Forward, the remarkable entity focused on keeping the homeless, and those on the cusp of homelessness, in some form of housing. The agency receives CDBG monies totaling some $300,000 from three sources — Oak Park, Berwyn and Cook County. Lynda Schueler, executive director, said those funds provide care for nearly 1,000 at-risk clients.

Also walloped would be the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, the village's fair housing champion, which would lose $190,000 or 15 percent of its annual budget. 

So much for Trump's promise of shifting resources to the local level, for his promise of support for the "forgotten American."

Remember that these programs remain enormously popular with most members of Congress who benefit from seeing federal dollars flow back to their states and districts. That makes this the moment to amp up the pressure not to step back in resignation.