Lorain County communities stand to lose millions if President Donald Trump has his way when it comes to the Community Development Block Grant program.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said the funds make up about $1 million of the city’s total budget and residents could say goodbye to any federal programs the city offers as well as city-sponsored housing demolition and investments into parks and low- to moderate-income areas of the city.
“It’s ironic the president who said during his campaign that he wanted to help those who had been affected by the Great Recession is wanting to cut programs that disproportionally impact those people,” he said. “This is a complete reversal of the campaign.”
Trump budget outline released Thursday includes zeroing out the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which saw its overall department budget slashed by 13.2 percent.
“The Federal Government has spent over $150 billion on this grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has no demonstrated results,” the blueprint reads. “The Budget devolves community and economic development activities to the State and local level, and redirects Federal resources to other activities.”
Ritenauer said, to him, CDBG funds are a bipartisan issue that members of both political parties should be concerned with and should support.
“These are grants to the community that come from the federal government, but they can be spent how the community sees fit and up to the discretion of the city,” he said. “It’s localized decision-making, and that’s something Republicans can usually get behind. To take that away is almost antithetical to what conservatism usually is and the campaign the president ran.”
Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said her city receives anywhere between $600,000 and $700,000 from CDBG each year and if the funds go away, key improvements might not be made as quickly, if at all.
“This money is code enforcement, it’s housing rehabilitation, it’s community programming and economic development,” she said. “Urban cities like Elyria and Lorain are most at risk, and it’s devastating.”
Brinda said it was ironic that the loss of the grant money would hurt the underserved, and those are the people who supported Trump’s bid for presidency.
“The whole situation is sad,” she said. “And CDBG won’t be the only thing that’s affected. We’re going to see cuts to things like health care and water, which is definitely a big issue for us. We don’t want to see a reduction in clean water here.”
Other cuts proposed in the blueprint included reducing the EPA funds by 31 percent, the State Department by 28 percent and zeroing out money for programs such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Institute of Peace.
The blueprint includes a $54 billion increase in defense spending along with increases to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lorain County Community Development Director Don Romancak said while cities like Lorain and Elyria would be affected more, the county stands to lose close to $1 million a year if block grant funding goes away.
Romancak said in the last year, the county’s block grant money has gone to things like Meals on Wheels and maintenance in places like Kipton, Carlisle Township, Amherst and Avon.
“This money goes to a lot of important projects, and if it goes away, we’re going to miss opportunities,” he said. “Our revolving loan program is funded through these grants, so it’s a big force in our economic development efforts but really it touches everything — jobs, housing stock, sewers. If you can name it, it’s probably used for it.”
Romancak said the money is a great example of federal tax dollars coming back to the community, and taking that away would have an impact.
“It would drastically cut down on the types of improvements we would be able to make,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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