This month the Trump Administration approved the nation’s fiscal budget. Only a determined pushback from Democrats stopped it all from going through. The parts that did get approved will have an impact on our local community.
President Trump’s new budget increases funding for the military and border security but decreases funding for bread and butter services that touch home to the average person.
Here’s a quick look at just a few:
MAJOR FOOD STAMP CHANGES COMING: Those who have been receiving food stamps will see a change. Recipients who receive $90 or more in food stamps will get the allotment reduced and instead of getting their entire SNAP allotment on a debit card to go to the stores, only half will go on the card, the other half will come in the form of a box of government commodity food, set for family size, but will contain staples: meat, bread, flour, vegetables, etc delivered or picked up by recipients. Congress is debating right now how long able-bodied persons will be able to draw food stamps without getting a job.
LEGAL SERVICES TO THE POOR: The administration tried to close legal services permanently and only budgeted $33 million for a skeleton staff to shut it down. Democrats were able to save Legal Aide, by making it a government agency, no longer non-profit and independent. It will be funded at $410 million under this plan, which is an increase.
The Legal Services Corporation provides legal assistance for the poor who may be falsely accused of crimes or unable to untangle a maze of civil matters because of a lack of funds. Without the Legal Aide program, they would have been left to fend for themselves. By placing making it a government agency it doesn’t appear to be a pork project.
NEIGHBORHOOD REINVESTMENT CORPORATION: The President pushed to close this agency altogether, but Democrats saved it. However, its funding was cut from $175 million to $140 million. As part of the deal, it won’t be closing on October 1.
This agency includes Community Development Block Grants. The City of Monroe receives over $1 million a year from this program to rehabilitate houses, repair infrastructure and help the poor. It will have reduced funding along with programs to rehabilitate houses, convert houses to senior facilities, home equity conversions, energy efficient mortgage assistance and about two dozen other programs. The city and the Police Jury should expect a reduction in funds, but at least they’ll live through another year.
CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE: This is another program President Trump wanted eliminated. It’s a biggie. He only budgeted $32 million for the program which was enough money for staff to shut the program down completely. However, it was saved and will be budgeted for $768 million. Its previous budget was $820 million.
What’s all affected? Foster Grandparent Program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps State and National and many other programs.
This program will still operate but at a reduced level.
DELTA REGIONAL AUTHORITY: President Trump wanted to eliminate federal funding for this agency. He only wanted $5 million for a dismantling staff, instead of $27 million. However, a deal was cut to merge it with the Appalachian Regional Commission which was also set to be eliminated. The two agency will share a total of $6 million, but they will still exist.
What does it do? The Delta Regional Authority works to improve regional economic opportunity by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta region. It provides funds for training and partnerships that address economic and social challenges to ultimately strengthen the Delta economy and the quality of life for Delta residents.
CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING: Those who enjoy commercial-free National Public Radio will have to raise a little more money out their own pockets to keep it going. The President wanted this completely closed. That would have meant KEDM in our area and hundreds of stations like our local public broadcast station would have been out of business. Originally the President proposed only $30 million, which would have been enough to shut it down. In the backroom swap offs, Public Broadcasting will still exist, but $40 million was cut out of its budget. It will be funded at $445 million instead of $485 million
There are scores of programs that local communities depend on to provide some semblance of quality of life. Many of the programs require local matches, but cash scrapped communities can’t do it all alone.
Money saved from these shutdowns is being shifted to border security and the military, which are essential needs as well, but it is an extremely difficult pill to swallow when we see what the term “budget cuts” mean for local programs.
Somehow its hard to see how eliminating legal aid, help for seniors or disaster relief is making America great again.