First Trump Budget Has Major Impact On Valley
By Mario Conde
President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint puts several programs important for Imperial Valley on the chopping block for its elimination.
President Trump released his first budget blueprint Thursday March 16, 2017 that emphasizes national security and public safety. The budget, according to President Trump, provides for one of the largest increases in defense spending without increasing the debt; significantly increases the budget for immigration enforcement at the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security; includes additional resources for a wall on the southern border with Mexico, immigration judges, expanded detention capacity, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Border Patrol; increases funding to address violent crime and reduces opioid abuse.
This budget reduces the spending for other departments in order to offset the cost for rebuilding the military and national security. For example, the Department of Commerce 2018 budget requests $7.8 billion, a $1.5 billion or 16 percent reduction compared to last year.
The budget proposal for the Department of Commerce contemplates the elimination of the Economic Development Administration. The budget outline states that the EDA provides small grants with limited measurable impacts and duplicates other Federal programs, such as Rural Utilities Service grants at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and formula grants to States from the Department of Transportation. By terminating this agency, the Federal Budget saves $221 million.
In Imperial County, cities like Imperial and Calexico are seeking EDA funding. City of Imperial is working on an EDA grant to extend water, wastewater, and other infrastructure and surface improvements along Neckel Road to provide services for a new hotel, retail center, and office park. Phase I of the regional center includes a 4-story 80,000 square-foot hotel building, two separate restaurants, and three retail buildings.
Other EDA projects include a joint application County of Imperial/City of Calexico for infrastructure improvements for the Gran Plaza Outlet and Gran Plaza Power Center and facilitate the development of off-site infrastructure improvements on the West Second St. between the Calexico International Airport and All American Canal.
Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo is working with EDA to facilitate the acquisition of medical equipment to open a state of the art medical facility clinic and on the job training program for new graduates in the medical field.
Esperanza Colio, Director of Imperial County Community and Economic Development, said that EDA is crucial for the Imperial Valley. She mentioned that the Imperial Center in Heber has one of top ten AM/PM stations in California that has more sales.
“For us is going to be very bad if they eliminate those sources of funding that help us create jobs.” Colio said. “EDA has been in existence for 50 years and they have survived many governments, Republican and Democrat, so my hope is that they will continue surviving because they have produced jobs and done good things in small communities, especially disadvantage, so I don’t think it’s going to disappear, they would probably change the name but keep the funding source.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development requests $40.7 billion in gross discretionary funding for HUD, a $6.2 billion or 13.2 percent decrease. The budget eliminates funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, a savings of $3 billion from the 2017 annual budget. The budget proposal states that the Federal Government has spent over $150 billion on this block grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results. The Budget devolves community and economic development activities to the State and local level, and redirects Federal resources to other activities. The HUD budget proposal also eliminates HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, a savings of over $1.1 billion. The budget proposal states that State and local governments are better positioned to serve their communities based on local needs and priorities.
Colio said CDBG is one of the key funding sources for Imperial County like last year where they received $3.4 million to address community needs. Colio mentioned that because Imperial County is the number one in unemployment and high poverty, they apply for funds to provide housing programs, assistance payments for senior and disabled people, or water and sewer improvements in the unincorporated areas, and neighborhood clean ups.
“I think that it is in the best interest of a new President to ensure that the small communities still receive funds so we can create jobs. In the new funding sources we received, about $3 million is for construction so what else do we want? Those are job creators so I think it’s in the best interest to keep those funds available for us.” Colio said.
Regarding the HOME programs, Colio said they provide first time home buyer loan program which is a second silent loan that is used to complete the loan so that people can secure the purchase of their home.
“Many low income families cannot afford buying a house so we provide them with a second silent loan and rental assistance to low income families and senior citizens.” Colio said. “The affordable apartments that we have in Heber are funded by home program so its going to be a hit for us to lose those funding sources as well.”