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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Trump’s budget would cut social safety nets in Clark County

Providers say reductions, eliminations would affect Clark County

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: March 13, 2019, 8:22pm

The Trump administration’s proposed 2020 budget eliminates or makes cuts to some safety net programs, which local social service providers say would trickle down to Clark County.

Kate Budd, executive director of Council for the Homeless, is particularly concerned with the proposal to eliminate Community Development Block Grants and the Home Investment Partnerships Program, but says it’s nothing new.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the CDBG and HOME dollars zeroed out (in a proposed budget),” Budd said.

With previous budget proposals, advocates of these two grant programs have ensured that the money continued to be allocated. It’s unlikely the 2020 budget will move forward as is, “but you never know,” Budd said.

The flexibility of CDBG and HOME funds allows communities to invest money where they see fit, whether for new projects or ongoing programs. The grants are often used together and fund services including the Housing Solutions Center, which connects people to housing and shelter services, homeless outreach workers and case management at the local youth shelter, Oakbridge.

Budd also noted that Trump’s budget makes significant cuts to Housing Counseling Grant funds, which she said are used by Lighthouse Community Credit Union and the Lighthouse Resource Center and are an important part of housing stability. Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS faces cuts too, putting an “incredibly vulnerable” population at risk of losing their housing, Budd said.

“Locally we see great impact from both HOME and CDBG funding. Apartment complexes are created as a result of these dollars,” she said. “Buildings that shelter people on a regular basis remain standing because of the CDBG and HOME resources.”

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Trump administration proposed the cuts because “state and local governments can better meet their communities’ needs.”

Roy Johnson, executive director of Vancouver Housing Authority, said the proposed cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development would harm clients. His local housing authority gets almost half of its funding from its federal counterpart, which the Trump administration proposes cutting by more than 16 percent, including a $4.6 billion cut to public housing capital and operating funds.

“The President’s Budget continues a commitment to fiscal restraint, targeting lower value HUD programs for elimination or reduction, while seeking stable or increased funding into the highest impact programs that provide housing and support for vulnerable populations,” the federal agency said in its news release.

Losing public housing funding would result in 114 planned units losing subsidy, including Caples Terrace, an under-construction project in Vancouver for homeless youth and youth aging out of foster care slated to open in July, and two other public housing projects the housing authority hopes to start at the end of 2019, Johnson said in an email.

“The Caples Terrace project would lose subsidy approximately three months after it opens,” he wrote.

He echoed Budd’s concerns about the loss of CDBG and HOME grants that are leveraged to build affordable housing, support social service programs and make improvements to shelters. (Vancouver Housing Authority owns three homeless shelters.)

The proposed federal budget includes increases to tenant-based rental assistance and increases to other grant programs, but reductions outweigh those increases.

The housing authority typically doesn’t know what its budget is until part way through the year; they could begin operating under one budget and then have to shift gears depending on how federal funding shakes out.

Johnson said the proposed 5 percent cut across all government departments would be the most significant. If that reduction was passed on to housing authorities, his agency would have about $1 million less in 2020 for housing administration and assistance. The average housing assistance payment is $660 monthly, so the housing authority would potentially serve 140 fewer households, Johnson said.

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Vancouver Housing Authority is a member of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, which spoke out Tuesday against the federal budget.

“The administration wants us to think beyond investing in bricks and mortar, and instead think about investing in people. This budget does neither of those things. The disinvestment in housing and supportive services is a disinvestment in our nation’s most vulnerable populations, including the 2.2 million low- and very low-income families, children, elderly and persons with disabilities who are served by public housing. Congress has previously rejected draconian budgets that shred our safety net, and we call on them to do so again,” Sunia Zaterman, the council’s executive director said in a prepared statement.

The budget proposes cuts to safety net programs for low-income households such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program called Basic Food in Washington and commonly referred to as food stamps.

Babs Roberts, director of the community services division of the state Department of Social and Health Services, isn’t sure yet what to make of the proposed budget, which was announced Monday, but said she is concerned about any cuts to public assistance programs.

“We have to dig into it and see how is he proposing these reductions will happen,” Roberts said. “But overall reductions are not good.”

Clark County is part of the Columbia River Community Services Office, which has nearly 25,000 households receiving food stamps and about 3,000 people benefit from TANF, a cash assistance program.

With a federal budget deadline of Oct. 1, Budd said there’s definitely an opportunity to talk with federal elected officials about community needs and concerns with the proposed budget.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith