A House subcommittee on Appropriations approved Tuesday its fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill for several federal agencies, calling for the restoration of funding for community development programs in the process.
The bill, which pertains to the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development and related agencies, was passed on a voice vote Tuesday evening.
“The bill that we are considering today provides $56.5 billion in discretionary budgeting authority,” said subcommittee Chairman and Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. “We’re $1.1 billion below enacted level, but $8.6 billion above the budget request.”
The legislation, which restores funds to community development programs cut from President Donald Trump’s budget request including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, has now been forwarded to the full committee for approval.
Trump’s “blueprint budget,” which was unveiled in March, proposed a number of cuts in domestic spending to direct more money to defense, border control and general law enforcement. It called for elimination of the block grant program.
The appropriations bill allocated $38.8 to HUD overall and $2.9 billion to CDBG, a $100 million decrease from the current year’s funding.
“It’s a program the needs significantly more funding,” said Allentown, Pennsylvania, Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who called it a “lifeline” for his citizens.
Pawlowski said the program should return to its 2013 funding level of $3.3 billion.
Established in 1974, the block grant program stands as one of longest continuously run programs at HUD. The program provides annual grants to more than 1,200 local and state governments to address a wide range of development needs in low- and moderate-income communities.
Since its inception, about $150 billion has been invested into the program.
In a March White House press briefing, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the program doesn’t work and is “not showing any results.”
But mayors across the country disagree.
Members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) issued a report showcasing the positive effects of the program in more than 120 cities and calling for additional funding.
More than 350 mayors have signed letters to Congressional leaders outlining the accomplishments of the program including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The conference is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of more than 30,000, in which cities are represented by mayors or other chief elected officials.
“There is not another issue that I know that has such strong bipartisan support,” said USCM 2nd Vice President and Rochester Hills, Michigan, Mayor Bryan Barnett on a conference call ahead of the markup hearing. “In a largely Republican community, with higher than average income and education levels, we rely on, count on and need CDBG funding.”
Barnett called the program a “very unique tool” his city uses to address concerns for its low-income residents, including a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Other uses for the grant include programs for literacy, engaging at-risk youth, housing rehabilitation for in-home seniors and the disabled, and counseling for those who suffer from mental illness.
The highly competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which allows DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects, was also eliminated in the appropriation bill.
Though some members called cuts to allocations “unfavorable,” the subcommittee forwarded the bill without any proposed amendments.