Editorial: Trump’s thoughtless budget

Published: 3/31/2017 12:05:07 AM

President Donald Trump has unveiled his budget blueprint, which essentially guts domestic programs such as Meals on Wheels so the largest military the world has ever seen can grow by $54 billion. He also wants to eliminate dozens of federal agencies and programs, many of which provide important services to New Hampshire residents, especially low-income families. Here’s a look at some of what the Trump budget would take away from the state:

New Hampshire would lose $15 million annually with the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership programs. CDBG and HOME help fund affordable housing and community development projects throughout the state. Locally, for example, $500,000 has gone toward renovating Franklin’s Riverbend Mill property into 45 units of affordable housing. Funds also go toward job creation, revitalization of downtowns and helping treat drug addiction. As if being placed on the chopping block for next year wasn’t bad enough, there is talk in Congress of cutting CDBG funding by 50 percent in the current year.

Last year in New Hampshire, 32,082 households were certified as eligible for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. That amounted to more than $26.3 million in relief for families who struggle to pay for heat during the winter. Under Trump’s blueprint, all of that money goes away. New Hampshire winters are long and cold, but imagine how much longer, how much colder when you can’t afford heat.

On Thursday, the Monitor’s Lola Duffort focused on another program on the chopping block: 21st Century Community Learning Centers. New Hampshire programs received $5.64 million last year, which served more than 10,600 kids. The Concord School District alone runs six such programs, from homework help to English language tutoring to substance abuse counseling, that reach 1,200 students.

Trump did well up north, but that doesn’t mean he spared the Northern Border Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that fosters economic and community development in distressed areas of Northern New England. North Country Sen. Jeff Woodburn said that just last year the commission awarded 12 grants totaling $1.55 million for infrastructure, substance abuse services and job creation.

If Trump gets his wish and eliminates the Legal Services Corporation, that would most likely mean the end of the Legal Advice and Referral Center in New Hampshire. The office’s current staff of nine helps about 5,200 people each year, including families facing eviction and victims of domestic violence, by giving them advice or directing them toward pro bono services. LARC gets about 70 percent of its funding from the LSC.

If you read the list of the 62 agencies and programs chosen for elimination, maybe you skipped right over the Institute of Museum and Library Services. New Hampshire gets about $1.2 million each year from that program, which helps pay for services that benefit all 234 of the state’s independent libraries, such as the inter-library loan program, the Downloadable Books Consortium and Talking Books, which provides audio and braille books to more 2,000 residents. The federal money also provides access to an enormous periodicals database that does what Google cannot: block fake news. Without federal funding, money would have to come from the state to keep those programs going. We have a pretty good idea how that would work out.

The Washington Post reported this week that the Trump administration was so pressed for time drafting the budget blueprint that the Office of Management and Budget cribbed most of the proposed cuts from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. That sounds about right for an administration that does its homework by watching cable news. If this feels like a thoughtless budget, that’s because it is.

Let’s hope members of Congress will do what Trump clearly did not and factor the human cost of cuts into the budget equation.

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