The grants partially funding the redevelopment of the Jordan Downs housing project in Los Angeles are at risk of being eliminated.

Photo by Isadora Kosofsky for NatiionSwell

How President Trump’s Federal Budget Hits 3 Model Programs Gradually

Low-income residents in South Central Los Angeles  and Appalachia and the homeless in New Orleans could be affected.

At NationSwell, our mission is to highlight solutions driving America forward. From rural Appalachia to South Central Los Angeles, we’ve covered the work of dedicated individuals fighting to improve people’s lives. Here are a few updates on how President Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts to social programs could gradually rollback the positive impact made by these initiatives.

Southeastern Kentucky

After generations of decline in once coal-rich Appalachia, Kentucky received a significant boost when eight rural counties were designated as a so-called Promise Zone. In a three-part series, NationSwell covered how the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an independent agency, and other federal partners had begun revitalizing the region with job retraining initiatives and drug prevention efforts. It is a program focused on “quality of life for everyone,” said Jerry Rickett, who leads the program.

Federal grants aren’t the only money going into Kentucky’s Promise Zone, but it’s a significant portion of it. (Nonprofits, private investment and local and state government grants also fund efforts in the area.) Under President Trump’s plan, the $146 million federal ARC funding will be zeroed out. “The loss of that [money] will challenge our ability to expand and help our service areas,” says Sandi Curd, a current program coordinator.  

While the need is great, and concern is high in this rural region, many are waiting to see what happens. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has vowed not to cut ARC funding, and President Trump’s plan remains a blueprint.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Why I’m Moving Home, The New York Times
The best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy” performs his civic duty and returns to Ohio to wage a battle against the area’s opioid addiction.

How to Save Coal Country, New Republic
A new economy centered on the arts and technology emerges in an area devastated by the death of the coal industry.

South Central Los Angeles

After years of delays in funding, construction is finally set to begin in April on the Jordan Downs housing project in South Central Los Angeles. The revitalization project aims to transform the prison-like complex — with 700 low-income units — into an urban village, complete with mixed-income housing and a job-generating retail plaza. But under President Trump’s budget plan, workers’ shovels might be put aside again. Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the one that is partially funding the Jordan Downs project, are set to be cut.  

It’s important to note that in recent years, federal tax credits and subsidies have helped entice builders to revitalize low-income communities. “Investors are looking to make a profit in affordable housing. The tax credit becomes the supplement or offset for the profits [they’d make on other projects] and that’s why we have a bustling industry in affordable housing,” says Joseph Paul, Jr., an outreach manager who was involved in the Jordan Downs project for years.

But this specialty market won’t disappear right away. “A lot of the contracts that are out there are long-term contracts, so it won’t be an immediate impact if the government suddenly decides to cut all federal spending in housing,” says Margaret Stagmeier, an Atlanta-based real estate developer who manages a portfolio of low-income housing complexes.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Measure JJJ Triggers New Incentives to Encourage Affordable Housing Near Transit, Curbed Los Angeles
The latest guidelines from the city planning office are meant to entice developers to build more low-income housing — and to construct it near public transportation.

New Orleans

In 2015, New Orleans became the first major city to house every veteran, utilizing, in part, a $4.5 million federal HOME Investment Partnership (a “lower-priority program” that is up for elimination) to acquire and rehabilitate affordable housing. It got landlords to accept rental vouchers and businesses to hire veterans, and it coordinated services among homeless shelters, the VA and other service providers. Once the city achieved its goal, it shared its strategies with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The Council’s $4 million budget will be wiped out if the President’s budget passes.  

“The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has played a critical role in the success here in New Orleans,” says Sam Joel, senior policy advisor for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, emphasizing that the city will lose a major partner if USICH is eliminated. “They assist us every day with guidance regarding best practices, like how to access additional funding sources and comply with federal regulations. Their help was and continues to be invaluable.”

Chris Peak is a staff writer for NationSwell. He previously worked for Newsday, the San Francisco Public Press and the Point Reyes Light. Contact him at [email protected]

Hallie Steiner is a writer and social media manager from Los Angeles. She has written for Buzzworthy and trends consultancy The Innovation Group. Contact her at [email protected]