SEABROOK – Potential repercussions to Prince George’s County from budget cuts proposed by the Donald Trump Administration are becoming clearer, prompting officials to speak out against the plan. County Executive Rushern Baker, III issued a statement on Friday describing some of the potential impacts from the budget cuts and encouraging county residents to oppose them. […]
SEABROOK – Potential repercussions to Prince George’s County from budget cuts proposed by the Donald Trump Administration are becoming clearer, prompting officials to speak out against the plan.
County Executive Rushern Baker, III issued a statement on Friday describing some of the potential impacts from the budget cuts and encouraging county residents to oppose them.
“I am still very concerned that the decisions being made by President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress are going to have a detrimental impact on the Prince George’s County budget and the services we provide to residents,” he said. “I urge all Prince Georgians to lend their voices in opposition to President Trump’s proposed budget and support the restoration of funding for federal programs that are so importantly to us locally.”
County Council Chair Derrick Davis said he shares Baker’s concern.
“Cuts in federal programming combined with federal employment insecurity negatively impact both safety net programming and county revenue collection. This is typically a road to recession and history should warn us to prepare,” he said in the statement.
The county budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018 contains approximately $225 million in federal funds, including those that support the public school system. Officials are worried about cuts to federal social services for children, the elderly and the homeless, as well as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program (which has been proposed for complete elimination) that allows community groups to fund projects in areas such as job creation, housing and public safety/infrastructure. Additionally, cuts to staffing at federal agencies could affect the county’s tax revenue, since 69,000 residents are employed by the federal government, with others benefitting from federal contracts that may be slashed under the new administration.
Long-term projects like the FBI headquarters relocation and the Purple Line could also be impacted. The lack of funding appropriations from Congress has delayed the FBI move indefinitely, while the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s Capital Investment Program, which would have provided money toward Purple Line construction, was targeted for elimination for all projects without a full funding agreement. The Purple Line was four days away from such an agreement before a federal judge ruled additional study was needed and canceled the project’s legal approval to move ahead.
Baker believes those projects are important to continuing the economic growth the county has seen in recent years.
“We have seen our county grow and prosper over the last six years and it would be a shame to see all our hard work dissipated as a result of decisions made by federal leaders who don’t understand our county and communities,” he said.
Smaller-scale projects are also at risk. The CDBG program, in particular, funds many such projects in Prince George’s. The county anticipated receiving more than $4.46 million in grant funds, which would generate another $204,933 in income from the programs it pays for, according to its Annual Action Plan for CDBG FY18 funds. The plan states funds would be used to assist 510 low-to-moderate income households with rent and about 98 low-to-moderate income families with rehabbing homes, and acquire homes for another 18 such families.
Specific non-profit groups are also proposed to receive CDBG funds next fiscal year for projects which include emergency food assistance to seniors and low-income families, improvements to living facilities for people with developmental disabilities, after-school and summer programs for at-risk youth, helping foster youth transition into housing after emancipation, healthcare for low-income Latinos and job training programs.
This is the 43rd year the county is eligible for CDBG funds, which the annual action plan says have a track record of success in economic development as well.
“In FY 2016, the county used CDBG funds to create and/or retain 108 jobs (14 percent of its five-year goal) and assisted 36 businesses (one percent of its five-year goal),” the FY18 plan states.
However, the Trump Administration disagrees about its success. Speaking with reporters March 16, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said CDBG, and other programs proposed for cuts, were not showing good enough results to justify continuing to fund them.
“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” he said. “To take the federal money and give it to the states and say, ‘look, we want to give you money for programs that don’t work.’ I can’t defend that anymore.”
Municipalities around the county could also see impacts from budget cuts. Bladensburg, Brentwood, Landover Hills, College Park and others have applied for CDBG funding for sidewalk installations and other infrastructure projects. Greenbelt has done so in the past, and while it did not apply for FY18, the city is still concerned about cuts to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Nicole Ard, Greenbelt’s city manager, told the Greenbelt City Council at its budget introduction that Green Ridge House, a 101-unit apartment complex for seniors and individuals with disabilities, receives money from HUD.
Ard said the city is “concerned across the board” about cuts, but specifically, “in terms of some of the direct services that we provide – Green Ridge House, the subsidies that are provided for senior and disabled residents, the maintenance reimbursement for that facility.”
Working with partners, the city has put aside about $156,000 in a reserve fund to pay for Green Ridge House services in the event federal funding is reduced.
The county is preparing, as well. At the county’s budget introduction, Tom Himler, deputy chief administrative officer for budget, said they are “protecting our reserves” so they can fill in any budget gaps that might arise if federal cuts go through.
“We’re not using much fund balance for this year, and it’s partly for that reason,” he said.
Some in the state are more optimistic. Charles Latucca, executive director for transit development and delivery at the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and a lead on the Purple Line project, said the FTA capital program could very well be reinstated.
“This program has been cut before under previous administrations and Congress has always reinstated it,” he told members of the Prince George’s and Montgomery County councils last week. “It’s a very popular program, we feel, and we are going to hope that that money gets reinstated again.”