Proposed Federal Budget

Proposed Federal Budget

Posted on April 4, 2017

By Tom Collishaw, CEO of Self-Help Enterprises

Budgets proposed by Presidents are a starting point – they are never the final say. After all, our constitution provides that Congress controls the spending of money, not the administrative branch. So the President’s budget is little more than a blueprint for what his administration would like to see. It is symbolic at best.

But symbols mean something, and this budget blueprint is a horrific vision of dismantling programs that help Americans move out of poverty.

Looking at the key programs that Self-Help Enterprises utilizes extensively, this budget blueprint is nothing less than carnage. People will suffer, but maybe even more tragically, they will stop dreaming. Dreaming of a better life through a homeownership opportunity or affordable apartment in a good neighborhood, dreaming of improving a block or whole community with essential services, dreaming of a better future.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been the home of major housing and community development programs for decades. The HOME program has been a cornerstone of our rental housing, housing rehabilitation, and homebuyer assistance efforts since its inception during the Bush I administration. The Trump administration would close the program. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) has been around even longer, with a variety of eligible uses that are targeted by income, allowing localities to decide their own priority uses for the money. With CDBG, we have worked with jurisdictions to provide critical infrastructure, housing, and community facilities over the decades to provide opportunities for poor people and their neighborhoods. The Trump administration would close the program. The Self-Help Opportunity Program (SHOP) has been around for less time, but has provided resources to buy and develop building sites for self-help homebuilders. The Trump administration would close the program.

NeighborWorks America (NWA) is a nongovernmental entity which receives funding directly from the federal government to provide resources to a network of nearly 250 community development organizations throughout the country – Self-Help Enterprises is one of them. One of NWA’s credos is “strength matters”. This is one of the few programs that truly rewards success through its funding process. The Trump administration would close the program.

In an odd twist, a major part of the blueprint for the Department of Agriculture is to eliminate the Water and Wastewater program, which provides critical funding to rural water and sewer providers. SHE uses these funds to help poor communities access – and be able to afford – clean drinking water. This is odd since rural America, more than anyone, elected this President, and also because he campaigned on the importance of rebuilding our infrastructure.

There are clearly additional cuts in Department of Agriculture programs that we have not seen yet but will see in stark clarity in May.

One of the most striking aspects of this slash and burn approach is that all of the programs highlighted here are typically what primes the pump, leveraging other dollars, multiplying relatively small federal investments many times over. The other shortsighted aspect of such cuts is that they are major job generators in rural America.

It might feel different if there was any discussion about broader belt-tightening on the part of the federal government. But there is no discussion of real entitlement reform (Social Security and Medicare) or Defense spending. And the general approach on the revenue side is likely to be to reduce taxes.

We will continue to advocate for these important programs as the process moves forward. After all, we can’t stop dreaming.

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