A Preliminary Report
The core of my first Budget Blueprint is the rebuilding of our Nation’s military without adding to our Federal deficit. There is a $54 billion increase in defense spending in 2018 that is offset by targeted reductions elsewhere. – President Donald Trump. (America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, March 16, 2017, page one).
I reviewed President Trump’s Budget Blueprint. Part of his proposed “reductions” to shift $54 billion to the military, are eliminations. I noted and “charted” all the independent agencies marked for elimination and all the programs marked for eliminations. These eliminations do not include other proposed budget reductions.
I then began to ask local governmental agencies, non-profits and unions in Olympia and Thurston County what these eliminations might mean to our communities. So far, I have barely scratched the surface of the implications of these eliminations. Thanks very much to all those people who responded to my requests for information.
Community Services Block Grant
Elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) of the Office of Community Services of the Department of Health and Human Services, a targeted reduction of $4.2 billion dollars.
Senior Services of South Sound, operating out of the Olympia Community Center, depends on federal funding from CSBG from the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as other federal sources. The proposed 17.9% cut in funding for this Department would mean a loss of $73,829 dollars for Senior Services. This would force a decrease in meal service to seniors, a closure of two or three rural meal sites, 800 fewer meals/month for 100 seniors and the need to begin a waiting list for new Meals on Wheels clients.
National Endowment for the Arts
Elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). NEA distributed $5 billion in 128,00 grants between 1965 and 2008. It had a $146 million dollar budget in 2015.
Some of the recipients of NEA grants via the Washington State Arts Commission (Arts WA) in Thurston County over the last several years include: Tenino and Yelm School Districts, Harlequin Productions, Rachel Corrie Foundation, Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia, Ballet Northwest, Masterworks Choral Ensemble, Olympia Film Society, Olympia Chorale Society, the Evergreen State College Foundation and the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
Corporation for National and Community Service
Elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). With a budget of $1 billion dollars (2013) and 485 staff (2006), CNCS engages five million Americans via AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, VISTA & US Freedom Corps.
In an April 13, 2017 letter addressed to member of Washington State’s Congressional delegation, Tumwater Pete Kmet wrote the following about the importance of the CNCS to Thurston County:
In Thurston County, specifically, the five AmeriCorps services are performed across the cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Rochester. These services are performed by 121 AmeriCorps members at 67 sites, representing five distinct programs. These programs are Community Youth Services, Vet Corps, Washington Conservation Corps, Washington Reading Corps and Washington Service Corps…. The total value of these services is over ($) 25 million.” The Mayor continued, “If the CYS (Community Youth Services) Youth in Services program was discontinued, 650 youth and families would not receive individualized educational and life skills support.
The elimination of this program would mean no more AmeriCorps volunteers for these programs: Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, Center for Community-Based Learning and Action, Crisis Clinic, CYS’ Rosie’s Place, Family Support Center, Mercy Housing, Pear Blossom Shelter, ROOF Community Service, South Sound Reading Foundation, Thurston County Food Bank, TOGETHER and YWCA- Girls without Limits.
Loss of CNCS funding would also mean no more AmeriCorps volunteers for these schools: Garfield, Hansen, LP Brown and Madison elementary, Olympia High School and Wa He Lut Indian School.
Department of Labor’s YouthBuild
The elimination of the Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program at Olympia’s Community Youth Services would eliminate the workforce for these completed affordable housing projects: Homes First (Tumwater), Emanuel Lutheran Church (Yelm) Disaster Preparedness Center, Habitat for Humanity (Lacey) storage sheds and fencing for a 30 unit housing development, Panza storage shed for 24 unit homeless adult community, Veterans Assistance Fund (Yelm) Tiny Home for a homeless veteran.
The elimination of the National and Community Service and Department of Labor funding at Community Youth Services of Olympia would mean a $1.4 million dollar decrease in its budget.
Legal Services Corporation
Elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). With a budget of $375 million (2015), the LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal aid. It distributes 90% of its funding to 134 independent, non-profit legal aid programs.
Here in Washington State the Legal Services Corporation funds the Northwest Justice Project (NJP). NJP works with clients by challenging institutions and practices that disproportionately affect low-income communities and perpetuate poverty. It’s main office is in Seattle with 17 offices around the state including one located here in Olympia. In 2015, NJP celebrated its 20th anniversary. In the same year, NJP closed 14,858 cases, helping 32,987 individuals including 14,546 children, 2,605 seniors and 1,642 veterans. The Olympia office closed 205 cases last year in the areas of public housing, domestic violence, return of drivers’ licenses, and termination of public services.
The Community Development Block Grants
The elimination of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)—a program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development—will mean a “targeted reduction” of $3 billion dollars.
Olympia is the only city in Thurston County that receives CDGB grants directly from the federal government. It does not receive CDBG grants via Thurston County. The City receives approximately $350,000. Federal CDGB funds have provided: training and coaching of small business entrepreneurs, acquisition of derelict buildings (e.g, Griswold’s), Alley lighting and ADA sidewalks, trash compactors for solid waste, and the downtown Ambassador program.
Thurston County became a direct CDBG recipient in about 2007 when it reached the 200,000 population threshold and thus became an Urban County. In 2015 and 2016, the County received about $1.1 million each year in CDBG Grants. In 2016, CDBG grants help fund a Bucoda water line repair (210K), a Yelm Splash Park ($305K), a single family repair via Habitat for Humanity ($272K), and Tenino Boys and Girls Scholarship ($81K).
The City of Lacey, like all cities in Thurston except Olympia, receives CDGB grants on a rotating basis via the County. In 2017, the City of Lacey will receive $867,000 in CDGB grants. These funds could be used for housing, capital improvement, community facilities and public services that benefit low and moderate income residents of the city.
HOME Investment Partnership Program
Elimination of HOME Investment Partnership Program, a program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program and two others (Choice Neighbors & Homeownership Opportunity) will mean a “targeted reduction” of $1.1 billion dollars. HOME funds can only be used for affordable housing programs.
The HOME consortium is an advisory body to the Thurston County Board of Commissioners. It distributes federal HUD HOME funds, federal HUD Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), as well as State funds, to Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Tenino, Bucoda, Rainier and the County. In the year September 2015 to August 2016, this Consortium expended $3.3 million for affordable housing and homeless activities including the shelter system, rental assistance, and transitional housing.
Some of the recipients of this $3.3 million in mixed federal and state funds were: Catholic Community Services ($65,3910), Community Action Council ($850,998), Community Youth Services ($167,350), Family Support Center ($325,293), Interfaith Works ($172,588) Panza (Quixote Village), ($20,250) SafePlace ($40,500), Salvation Army ($48,700) and Sidewalk ($192,711).
Federal HOME funds accounted for $528,594 of this total. This is the program explicitly eliminated by the America First budget. Some of these funds went to Habitat for Humanity ($160,000), Homes First ($115,735) and Housing Authority of Thurston County ($274,293 with some ESG $).
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Institute is the main source of federal support for libraries and museums within the US. It had a $227 million dollar budget in 2015.
The Institute awarded a $148,488 grant in fiscal year 2015 to the Hands On Children’s Museum of Olympia to increase meaningful math and science experiences for young children, including those from at-risk and under-served families, their parents and caregivers and preschool and early elementary teachers. The Institute has also funded an extraordinary number of “Native American Library Services” including grants to the Nisqually Indian Tribe: $7,000 (2016), $7,000 (2015), $40,492 (2015) and $7,000 (2014).
Dan Leahy is a retired Professor of Political Economy and Social Movements from The Evergreen State College and founder and former Executive Director of Washington State’s Labor Education and Research Center.