King County facing severe budget cuts under Trump

Biggest losers could be schools, the arts, homelessness and housing programs

By Voice Staff

Under the budget blueprint released March 16 by President Trump, King County residents would have fewer transit options, and fewer housing options for people who earn a lower income, and fewer supports for those most in need of human services.

“This is what happens when rhetoric becomes reality,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Given the hateful and wrongheaded ideas of this President, it’s no real surprise that his first proposed budget is an assault on the environment, economy and mobility of King County, and on the most vulnerable among us.

“Nonetheless, the depravity of this proposal is shocking. I will team with our Congressional delegation and state leaders to fight these vicious cuts and restore sanity to the federal government, but the budget announced today makes clear the scope of the struggle we face.”

Members of Executive Constantine’s Cabinet produced analyses of the potential local impacts of the proposed federal budget.
The President’s cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are devastating and clearly ignore the impacts of climate change on our communities, natural resources and quality of life. Although the budget includes new funding for drinking and wastewater infrastructure, this funding falls significantly short of the existing needs of the entire country.

The proposed budget nearly eliminates funding to restore some of the most iconic water bodies and critical habitat in the country−including Puget Sound−that support wildlife, fisheries and a maritime economy.

Proposed cuts of over $15 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services budget potentially put many essential public health and safety-net clinical services at risk:
Infectious disease control, including TB, HIV and STDs, and emerging diseases such as Zika and Ebola.
Prevention of leading causes of illness, death and health care expenses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
Extensive cuts to several EPA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs will affect our ability to protect local communities from contaminants in our air, water, soil, home and the products we purchase and consume.

Preparedness grants to local and state health departments through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)and other agencies take deep cuts, risking rolling back our gains over the past 10 years in increasing community readiness for and resilience from disasters.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray made the following statement in response to President Trump’s planned federal budget:
“President Trump’s proposed budget, which decimates support for public health, working families, seniors, and the environment, confirms my worst fear that he is reneging on his promise to be a champion for the underdog and instead abandoning the American people altogether.”

“We knew we couldn’t count on the new administration to partner on our progressive agenda to fund transit, build affordable housing, and be proactive about health and human services. These massive cuts to more than a dozen federal agencies, including completely eliminating the Housing and Urban Development’s housing block grant program, are downright dangerous, putting the economy and human lives at risk.”

The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA)similarly issued a statement from Executive Director Andrew Lofton in reaction to the president’s proposed budget.

“The 2018 budget proposal the President sent to Congress today includes a 13 percent cut – more than $6 billion – to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD is already underfunded for public housing and vouchers to help people afford rent in the private market, which form the safety net that keeps millions of veterans, seniors, children and many others in our country from homelessness. Congress must stop these budget cuts from being enacted.”

“SHA currently serves more than 34,000 people. Its annual operating budget, which is funded through HUD, is $180 million. The federal budget at this point is only the President’s proposal, and we don’t know where the numbers will be at the conclusion of the full budget process. For perspective, however, if a 13 percent cut to our HUD funding were to happen, it would mean $24 million less to provide housing and services to people in need in the Seattle community.”

“$24 million is nearly half of the annual cost of maintaining and operating our 8,000 residences, which provide housing for more than 15,000 people. It is the annual equivalent of 2,400 rental assistance vouchers providing affordable housing for almost 5,000 people. $24 million dollars is four times the current SHA budget for essential services for tenants such as youth tutoring, job training and employment, support for aging residents and health related services.”

“There is a myth, and a great deal of false rhetoric, about people living in public housing or using vouchers. Some government leaders have suggested that people just lack the motivation to work and meet their own needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. More than two-thirds of the low-income people we house are elderly, disabled or children. Among the remaining third are hardworking individuals who simply cannot earn enough to pay today’s rents, let alone garner enough resources to buy a home. They are vulnerable for myriad reasons and need our help.”

“On behalf of the community and individuals we serve, the Seattle Housing Authority implores members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to consider the immediate and the hidden consequences for our entire society of decimating the HUD budget. It’s not only inhumane, it’s shortsighted. America is better than this.”

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