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home : most recent : vanderburgh June 22, 2017


3/20/2017 12:20:00 PM
Trump's proposed budget cuts would hurt poorest most, says Evansville official

Kaitlin L. Lange, Evansville Courier & Press

If President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts make it into the final budget, local governments, entities and states could foot the bill.

On Thursday, Trump released a budget blueprint that specified 62 federal programs and agencies he wants to nix. But he said there would be hundreds eliminated.

The city of Evansville could lose a collective $3 million in federal funds every year under his proposal, and Kelly Coures, the executive director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, doesn’t see how the city could make up for it.

“The problem is if these funds are eliminated, there is no substitute for them,” Coures said. “We have no alternative revenue stream that would substitute for these programs. They would have to curtail their services. Some of them may end.”

The city receives about $2.2 million from Community Development Block Grant Program, $500,000 from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program and $250,000 from the Emergency Solutions Grants Program each year.

Those funds go towards helping Evansville’s poorest, and the city has counted on them every year since the mid-1970s. Coures estimated that federal money helps some 60 programs.

Among programs that would have to find new funds — or limit their services — are ECHO Housing Corp., which provides housing for homeless people; the Tri-State Food Bank; Meals on Wheels; and Voices, a program that ensures Evansville nursing homes are providing adequate services.

Other programs such as the Bridge Builders Transportation Program would lose money as well, leaving those without transportation unable to get to work.

In short, Coures said the reduction would be devastating.

“It’s just like dropping a pebble in a quiet pond,” Coures said. “Those kinds of things tend to ripple out. And the ripples would be devastating.”

At the state level, Sen. Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said the federal government provides about half of the state’s budget.

Lawmakers are most concerned about the federal government’s healthcare funding. While not mentioned in Trump’s initial round of cuts this week, the fed’s replacement for the Affordable Care Act, which Kenley supports, could severely cut state funding.

Right now, the federal government funds more than 90 percent of Indiana’s Healthy Indiana Plan, while the state provides the rest. If that match changes, Kenley said Indiana will have to make a decision if they can continue to serve all of the approximately 350,000 people who did not have healthcare before HIP 2.0 was enacted.

Trump plans to cut more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency programs, including $40 million to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which helps improve water quality in the area. While Kenley was not sure the exact amount of funds the federal government provides to Indiana, he believed it was significant.

“In the back of my mind I have a feeling that the program could not exist without the federal funding that is beyond it,” Kenley said. “I’m not sure the states are in the position to be able to make up that difference.”

Aside from that, Kenley wasn’t sure how much the state would be impacted by the other budget cuts Trump proposed.

However, he saw the potential for cuts in some programs as a good thing. For example, he sees the Head Start program as ineffective, and said the state wouldn’t be at a loss if Trump decided to cut the program.

“In the big picture the government has to do something to solve this $20 trillion deficit that we have, so I think they should be applauded or at least try to bring this up in the budget — even if they may miss the mark on some of their particular programs that they’re talking about,” Kenley said. “Eventually we’re going to have to solve this problem so we’re going to have to get started.”

House Way and Means committee chair Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) was unavailable to comment on Trumps’ proposal.

Stephanie Wilson, spokeswoman for Gov. Eric Holcomb, said their office was still reviewing Trump’s budget proposal, but it would likely evolve as congress looks at it.

“I think you can count on the governor’s office pushing really hard for Indiana’s priorities, for the things the governor’s office has been pretty open about supporting, like transportation, HIP 2.0, and things that are on his legislative agenda that could be affected by the funding levels,” Wilson said. “We’re going to weigh in pretty heavily to make sure we get the outcomes we’d like to see for Hoosiers in every part of the state. And we’ll be working with the congressional delegation and the federal administration to make sure that happens.”

Related Stories:
• EDITORIAL: Indiana's HIP 2.0 offers better course for fixing health care
• GOP health care plan could hit Wabash Valley hard, Rose-Hulman economist says
• Proposed federal cuts could be 'devastating' for Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana
• Senior meals, home repair funds threatened by Trump's first federal budget
• NWI Region leaders react to Trump budget plan: 'We all stand to lose quite a bit'
• Arts organizations weigh federal funding cut proposed in Trump budget
• Mayor: Anderson could lose nearly $1 million in federal funds under Trump budget

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