Photo by Leise Jones
James Wilson, assistant director of conservation, examines a furnace for needed repairs or replacement. The program could be axed if President Trump’s budget is approved.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — President Donald Trump’s proposal to scrap more than $50 billion in federal funding for social programs would have a catastrophic impact on residents, according to nonprofit executives and City Hall.
“These cuts will be devastating,” said Birgitta Damon, CEO of Lynn Economic Opportunity Inc. (LEO), a North Shore community action agency that provides fuel assistance, home energy measures and daycare. “If these cuts come, it would jeopardize the safety of thousands of Greater Lynn residents.”
In what Trump calls his “Budget Blueprint for 2018,” the president proposed increases in the federal budget for immigration enforcement at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, additional resources for a wall on the Mexican border, immigration judges, expanded detention capacity and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The president also pledged to boost defense spending by 10 percent to $571 billion, a $54 billion hike, without increasing the debt.
But to do that, Trump has recommended reductions in non-defense spending totaling $54 billion.
“We are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said in his budget plan. “This includes deep cuts to foreign aid. It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”
Charles Gaeta, executive director of the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, whose mission is to provide low- and moderate-income tenants with safe and affordable housing, said the proposed cuts will have a significant impact on the nonprofit’s $40 million budget.
“If Congress goes along, these cuts will be disastrous to our residents, clients and staff,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how much will be cut, but rental assistance is threatened, so are community development block grants and HOME funds which can be used to rehab housing. For an urban community like Lynn, this is devastating. It will hurt neighborhood revitalization, as well as first-time homebuyer and lead paint programs.”
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said candidate Trump promised to create good-paying jobs, invest in the nation’s infrastructure and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to thrive in the new economy. But the president’s budget fails to mention jobs, rebuilding roads and bridges or expanding economic opportunity for all Americans.
“For a president who talks about ‘America First,’ this budget puts Americans last,” Moulton said in a statement.
A spokesman for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, an agency of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, said they were still trying to determine how the proposed cuts would impact the state.
“The commonwealth relies on various federal funding sources to support important programs … and the Baker-Polito administration will continue to advocate for federal funding,” the agency said in a statement. “As the budget process plays out in Congress, the administration urges the Massachusetts congressional delegation to work toward keeping these critical funding sources intact.”
Donald Walker, director of project operations for the city’s Department of Community Development, said Lynn would take a $2.2 million hit if the White House eliminates the block grant program.
“We use that program to rehabilitate parks and playgrounds, housing rehabilitation, fund first-time homebuyer and small business loans,” he said. “We also provide $366,000 to 30 public service agencies that provide Meals On Wheels, a community minority cultural center, special needs and arts programs. We are concerned about the impact the cuts would have and hope there will be some give and take before this is over.”
If approved by Congress, $7 million of LEO’s $10.3 million annual budget would be lost. Low-income heating assistance and home energy/weatherization programs would end and Head Start, a program that prepares young children for success in school, would also cease.
“Trump has decided to increase defense spending and, as a result, he must cut domestic programs that families and communities rely on,” said Damon.
Material from Associated Press contributed to this report.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]