Local Agencies Face Cuts Under Proposed Federal Budget

Thursday, March 16th 2017, 4:18 pm
By: News 9

President Donald Trump is outlining a wide range of federal budget cuts in order to make way for more defense spending.

In the 60 pages of his “America First” plan, Trump shows where he would cut in order to make $54 billion dollars available to the defense department. Some of the hardest hit would be farmers, workers in the energy sector, low-income families and seniors.

In the "America First" budget draft, the president is calling to "redefine the proper role of the Federal Government” by eliminating “duplicative” programs and others that he believes should be run by local governments. The plan would slash a third of the EPA's budget, eliminating all climate change and clean power programs. It also cuts 20% from the Department of Agriculture, mainly eliminating the grant program for water and wastewater loans.

Under the new plan, most of the federal funding for housing services and senior assistance programs would disappear. Neighborhood Housing Services Oklahoma uses up to $10 million in federal dollars each year to help families achieve housing.

“I think we would find our community rising up to the occasion to help seniors and veterans and others that need these necessities,” said NHS Executive Director Roland Chupik, “but as far as construction, new projects, they might be delayed for quite a while.”

Nationally, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program alone represents $3.4 billion. Without it, thousands of Americans would not be able to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, leading to potentially life-threatening conditions.

“I think it would just be totally devastating,” said Chupik. “These families would be completely on their own. Our senior citizens that depend on these programs to help with just some of the basic repairs would be gone.”

The National Endowment for the Arts is another major entity on the president's chopping block, alongside funding for museums and libraries.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be eliminated as well, wiping out federal funding for public radio and television.

The Oklahoma Arts Council argues the importance of cultural enrichment in educating the next generation, especially in rural areas of the state.

Executive Director Amber Sharples said, “We want to give every child equal opportunity to have arts education in the classroom. We don’t expect every child to become an artist, but we do know that the arts enhance their learning.”

President Trump also wants to eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency, which provides services and funding to minority business owners nationwide.

The plan, however, is just the first budget draft, and agencies are working with local legislators to protect their funding.

“It’s the President that proposes. It’s the Congress that disposes,” said Chupik, “and what that means is that it’s up to Congress to give the final say-so.”

Congress does still have a lot of work to do before approving the final federal budget this summer. The “America First” plan only addresses discretionary spending, and President Trump previously stated that he would not make changes to mandatory spending, which includes Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.