Thursday, March 23, 2017

Highlights of the Trump Budget Proposal


  • Proposed funding change: -17.9%
  • Up for elimination: $4.2 billion for things including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance and the Community Service Block Grant programs
  • Proposed funding change: -13.2%
  • Up for elimination: $3 billion in spending on the Community Development Block Grant program; $1.1 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships, Choice Neighborhoods, and Self-help Homeownership Opportunity programs
  • Proposed funding change: -28%
  • Spending cuts: $650 million over three years from development banks including the World Bank. Also, reduction in support for the United Nations, including peacekeeping efforts
  • Up for elimination: Global Climate Change Initiative; the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account

Trump Budget Cuts Billions of Dollars From Antipoverty Programs

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
By Alex Daniels, Megan O’Neil, and Timothy Sandoval
The Trump administration’s preliminary budget proposal would zero out many nonprofit-administered antipoverty programs in areas including heating assistance, affordable housing, and economic development, while also eliminating federal agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts.
Also on the chopping block is the Corporation for Community and National Service, which provides charities with tens of thousands of low-cost AmeriCorps workers each year, and the agency’s Social Innovation Fund, which steers public and private dollars to nonprofit programs that prove positive results.
The White House called for foreign-assistance spending by the State Department and USAID to be cut by nearly one third, or more than $10 billion.
The spending cuts outlined in the summary "skinny budget" released Wednesday would require the approval of Congress. Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the White House will release in May a full budget for fiscal year 2018.
"Skinny budgets are tricky because they give you top line, but they don’t give you a lot of details," said Alicia Phillips Mandaville, vice president for Global Development Policy and Learning at InterAction, a membership group of international charities. "This one calls out some specific things but not always in ways we can tell what will come out in the subsequent, more detailed version."
Presidents never get everything they request, but the White House budget proposal is always an important and influential starting point for the months of tough negotiations that follow on Capitol Hill.
The stakes for nonprofits are high. Public charities get about one-third of all their revenue from government grants and fees for services, including Medicare and Medicaid payments, according to the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics. Nonprofit revenue totaled $1.7 trillion in 2013, according to the center.

Rallying Cry

Nonprofit leaders across the country reacted with dismay to the cuts proposed in the budget, which they characterized as deep and damaging. They say that if Congress enacts even a portion the cuts outlined by the Trump administration — which were proposed to help pay for a $54 billion increase in military spending — it will have far-reaching consequences for charitable programs and their beneficiaries.
"This is an opportunity for a rallying cry," said Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits.
He called on nonprofit leaders to examine how the potential cuts might affect their organizations and the people they serve. Then they can start reaching out to partner groups and state nonprofit associations to coordinate on advocacy with local representatives.
Nonprofits should emphasize how the cuts will affect the people they serve — not their organizations, Mr. Delaney said. "Nobody cares about whether nonprofits are getting hurt — or this corporation or that entity. The real concern is how this will affect the lives of individual Americans."

Economic Development

President Trump’s budget proposal would shutter multiple programs that serve low-income communities. It would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal representation for low-income people. It would also close the doors at several regional commissions that provide education, clean water, economic development, and health grants in low-income areas: the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Commission.
Other programs that would be slated for closure include several U.S. Housing and Urban Development efforts to provide low-income housing, including the HOME Investment Partnerships, Choice Neighborhoods, and Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity programs.
The proposal also calls for a 17.9 percent, or $15.1 billion, cut in the Department of Health and Human Services. It doesn’t specify whether the Senior Nutrition Program, which supports Meals on Wheels groups across the country, would be cut.
"We don’t know how that will be spread out, but it is pretty frightening," said Ellie Hollander, president of Meals on Wheels America.

Community Block Grants

Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, which supports social services for children and the elderly, is especially concerned about the proposed elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program. It provided $3 billion in grants in the current fiscal year to states, cities, and counties to provide job training, develop housing for low-income residents, build community centers, make loans to small businesses, and redevelop homes.
The block grants allow states and localities flexibility to design programs as they see fit. But because each recipient uses the grants differently, it can be hard to come together to fight the proposed cuts, according to Ms. Butts.
"It’s a blessing and a curse," she said. "When it’s block granted, it’s harder to rally a constituency. It makes it easier to cut."
Ms. Butts is bracing for more. She thinks the $1.5 billion Social Services Block Grant program, an entitlement program that supports foster care and adoption services and adult day care for the elderly, could be vulnerable. It was not included on the proposal, which only outlined cuts in discretionary programs. (Discretionary spending is implemented through appropriations bills, while spending on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare is mandatory.)
Generations United and social-service organizations from all 50 states sent members of Congress a letter defending the program last week. But Ms. Butts fears that the deep cuts the administration has proposed throughout domestic programs will pit social-service groups against one another.
“Nobody cares about whether nonprofits are getting hurt -- or this corporation or that entity. The real concern is how this will affect the lives of individual Americans.”
"We are stronger together, but some groups are starting to express a willingness to elevate their particular age group," she said. "Some of the groups are starting to splinter."

Foreclosures and Evictions

South Jersey Legal Services, which receives the majority of its funding from the Legal Services Corporation, last year handled more than 9,200 cases. Douglas Gershuny, the group’s executive director, said the proposed elimination of the Legal Services Corporation would reduce that number by a third.
"That means more unjust foreclosures and evictions resulting in homelessness," he said in a statement. Mr. Gershuny also worried that more domestic-violence victims would be unable to escape abuse, and more homeless veterans and hungry children would be denied government benefits.
Closing the Appalachian Regional Commission would be a "cruel disinvestment" from an area hit hard by the collapse of the coal economy, said Jake Lynch, spokesman for the West Virginia Community Development Hub.
Over the past two years, the commission has made $73 million in grants to improve life in coal production areas. Mr. Lynch’s group received $94,000 to mentor local community teams in ways to diversify their economies.
"The specter of ARC vanishing is really sad," Mr. Lynch said. "West Virginia could use some hope and could use some help, and ARC has been providing that."

Advocacy for the Arts

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities are among 19 independent agencies identified for elimination in President Trump’s budget.
The elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts would be a significant blow to the roughly 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations across the nation, said Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, a network of cultural groups.
Although the amount of money the endowment provides is small, cutting the NEA would disrupt other streams of funding for cultural organizations, he said. Almost all NEA grants are matched by state and local money, and campaigns for private donations are often built around NEA-funded projects, he added.
Ending the NEA would not put many arts organizations "out of business directly," he said. "But that’s really not the point — services will be reduced and survival will be a little bit harder."
The NEA has been a catalyst for growth in the arts since it was formed in the mid-1960s, he said. There were only four state arts councils before the NEA was formed, he said. Now all 50 states have them.
Mr. Lynch noted that on Tuesday about 700 arts leaders will be on Capitol Hill protesting cuts to the NEA and other arts funding during "Arts Advocacy Day."

Ripple Effect

John Gomperts, director of AmeriCorps from 2010 to 2012, said nonprofits with staff members who come to them through programs run by the Corporation for National and Community Service should be talking to their congressional representatives about why they are important.
"We have been, for the last 20-plus years, asking young people to step up and be leaders in their own communities in the county," said Mr. Gomperts, now chief executive of America’s Promise, which works to improve graduation rates, among other things. "It is such a red, white, and blue kind of idea."
Many AmeriCorps volunteers are young people trying to serve children growing up in difficult circumstances, he said.
"I understand the president is trying to give expression to a different set of priorities, but the notion of uninvesting, disinvesting, in young people on both sides of this equation just seems to me unfortunate and shortsighted."
The current appropriation for the Corporation of National and Community Service is $1.1 billion, up from $1 billion in 2016. The agency has sustained attacks from lawmakers and others before, some of whom questioned whether paid service is really service. Nonprofit leaders and champions of national service said they find it striking that President Trump has not said much about volunteering and civic engagement, breaking with decades of presidential tradition.
AnnMaura Connolly, president of the advocacy group Voices for National Service, said that eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service would cost taxpayers money. She cited a Columbia University study that found that for every $10 spent by the federal government on national service, $15 was raised from private sources to pay for such work.
"By matching or exceeding federal support with private-sector dollars, national service programs lessen the strain on the federal government through partnerships with more than 1,100 community and faith-based nonprofits," Ms. Connolly said in a statement. Among those charities that rely heavily on national service programs are Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities USA, and the American Red Cross, she said.

Foreign Aid

Ms. Phillips Mandaville of InterAction said the proposed one-third cut to foreign assistance includes a reduction in U.S. support for and work with the United Nations and the World Bank.
"At a macro level, those things, added up, really potentially undermine our ability as a country to be engaged in the world," she said.
While many big U.S.-based aid organizations get more than half their revenues from government, others are mostly supported by private philanthropy. Those donors want to see the country continue to play a leading role in global health and development efforts.
"Part of what they are concerned about is not just how much money the United States is putting into something but the net effect on development and humanitarian outcomes if the U.S. withdraws like this," she said.
Spending on foreign aid accounts for less than 1 percent of the federal budget, Ms. Phillips Mandaville said, a good value considering it saves lives and protects U.S. interests. And she questions the choice to slash an already tight foreign-aid budget to pour more into defense spending.
"The same way that Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about turkey, our global leadership isn’t just about the military," Ms. Phillips Mandaville said. "In dinner terms, what this budget does is propose to eliminate mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie in order just to get more turkey."
She and others in the development community said that U.S. foreign-aid spending has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress and that they hope lawmakers will reject proposed cuts to that piece of the budget.
David Miliband, chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said that slashing the U.S. foreign-aid budget endangers the country’s work to prevent and respond to global crises like ISIS and Ebola.
“The notion of uninvesting, disinvesting, in young people on both sides of this equation just seems to me unfortunate and shortsighted.”
"Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign-aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today but sparing the U.S. and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow," Mr. Miliband said in a statement.

Taxes May Be Next

The White House’s proposal did not include details on the administration’s plans for tax policy — so its views on the charitable tax-deduction were not included. Speaking at a rally in Tennessee on Tuesday night, President Trump said that a tax-overhaul bill would follow on the heals of health-care legislation.
Steve Taylor, counsel for public policy for United Way Worldwide, said he’s heard support for the charitable tax deduction in conversations he’s had with White House staff and members of Congress. Still, neither the administration nor legislators on Capitol Hill have ruled out that limits could be placed on the deduction as part of a tax-overhaul bill — which Republicans are hoping to pass this year.
Mr. Taylor said it’s hard to know where the GOP-controlled Congress will come down on the charitable deduction. "At the end of the day, Congress is looking for revenue that they can use for their big-picture plan, which is to lower taxes," he said. "And they’re looking under every stone for that revenue, so we are as vulnerable as any" group.

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