JACKSON Due to federal budget cuts President Donald Trump is pushing, Mississippi faces the loss of funds for rehabbing crumbling buildings, economic-development projects, youth services, and repairing streets and drainage problems.
The state could suffer the loss of Community Development Block Grants because Trump's budget proposes a $6.2-billion cut from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which houses the CDBG program. HUD is facing a 13.2-percent decrease from the level of funding for this year under Trump's plan.
The HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), also housed under HUD, is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed to create affordable housing for low-income households. HOME also provides formula grants to states and localities that communities use—often in partnership with local nonprofit groups—to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct rental assistance to low-income people.
The Trump Effect
In March, the new president announced his budgeting blueprint that proposed $54 billion in cuts from 62 federal agencies and programs.
The loss of CDBG funds could hit home fast in Jackson and Mississippi. "If these programs are eliminated, houses will not be able to be rehabbed, (and) some of our drainage will not be able to be done," Vanessa Henderson, deputy director of the Jackson Office of Housing and Community Development, told the Jackson City Council at its April 18 meeting.
Henderson emphasized that the 1-percent sales tax does not fund all the city's drainage and street needs, as well as other vital services.
"Our parks would not be able to be maintained. We wouldn't be able to help the homeless individuals," Henderson told the council.
"We would not be able to serve food to the senior citizens. We would not be able to fund some of our local daycare centers to provide after-school programs for our low and moderate-income youth."
The outcome of the grant termination would affect the many poor families and communities around the globe, who are surviving due to CDBG funds. The program has helped fund low- and moderate-income areas for approximately 43 years, dating back to the Community Development Act of 1974.
In response to the looming CDBG crisis, Mayor Tony Yarber proclaimed April 17-22 as National Community Development Week at the same meeting.
Angela Grayson, executive assistant to Yarber's chief of staff, Jackie Anderson-Woods, read the proclamation in the mayor's absence. "[B]e it resolved," the resolution read in part, "that the City of Jackson opposes any attempts to eliminate the programs and urges Congress to recognize the outstanding work being done locally and nationally by CDBG and HOME by supporting increased funding for both programs in FY18."
Henderson closed her presentation with a call-to-action: "It's going to affect us in a great way. Let us not sit back silently and say and do nothing.
"Please support us by contacting your local representatives, your congressmen, your senators, and tell them to vote no on the elimination of CDBG and HOME Programs."
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., both are in favor of CDBG grants. When the City of Gulfport and the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport were awarded $3,893,247 in federal grants for the community, Wicker said in a statement that he was "pleased that we are working to enhance our Gulf Coast with these federal grants."
An additional $581,068 grant went to the City of Gulfport to support community-development projects near the Gulfport Job Corps Center.
However, Wicker also voted in 2015 in favor of the "Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act," S. 2146, to limit federal funding to cities that refuse to use local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration policies.
Trump signed an executive order in January to pull back federal funds from cities that refused to help with immigrant arrest and deportation. William H. Orrick, a federal judge in California, ruled last week that Trump's executive order is unconstitutional, however.
Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman said he supports maintaining the CDBG and HOME Program because he has seen them make children safer.
"I had the opportunity to get a piece of this money (and) participate in this program when I was principal at Rowan Junior High School. Half of the student body lived across the railroad track, and safety was a big, big issue," Tillman said at the council meeting.
"We got CDBG money to build that crosswalk, and I will forever be grateful for this program and the community, especially the parents who had students that had to cross the railroad track."
On Sunday, April 30, Congress passed a budget that did not include Trump's cuts to HUD funds, but that budget could be revised as soon as May 5 and will expire by September.
Email city reporting intern William H. Kelly III at William@jacksonfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter at @William_Reports.