Cincinnati officials left wondering how Trump budget would affect city

Cincinnati got $55M in grants last year

CINCINNATI -- Wondering how the Trump administration's first federal budget might affect Cincinnati?

City officials are doing the same.

The uncertainty is especially troubling given the city's looming $25 million budget deficit, City Manager Harry Black says.

Federal agencies gave Cincinnati more than $55 million in grants last fiscal year, according to a memo from Black. That doesn't include some $17 million the Health Department gets from Medicaid reimbursement at its health centers.

The money covers the equivalent of 192 full-time city employees and covers everything from firefighter recruits to blight removal, domestic violence services to major infrastructure projects.

 

But, although Black says he expects some level of federal cuts, he and other city leaders have pretty much no idea what's going to happen next.

"Although difficult to predict, at a minimum it is likely that there will be some reductions," his memo says. "In that when it comes to future Federal funding, there will be a level of uncertainty that the country has not experienced in quite some time."

President Donald Trump has indicated he'd like to move federal dollars from domestic programs to Homeland Security and the Department of Defense; but, it's not clear if lawmakers will go along with all the cuts he's outlined.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could stand to take a significant hit. In 2016, Cincinnati received nearly $13 million from HUD's Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, program.

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Those dollars are supporting more than 30 projects and programs across the city including:

  • More than $1.38 million for Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s Hand-Up Initiative, a job training and placement program aimed at curbing poverty in the city.
  • More than $1.6 million in funding for a housing repair program that’s helped more than 5,000 low-income, elderly and disabled residents make emergency repairs to their homes.
  • More than $900,000 for neighborhood business district improvements. These funds are matched with money from the city’s general fund and have been tapped by communities including Avondale, Walnut Hills and Madisonville as leaders there work to remake their business districts.
  • Statewide in Ohio, more than $140 million is awarded annually to communities through the CDBG program, according to HUD.

The proposed federal cuts would also eliminate the Choice Neighborhood program, which is remaking several city blocks in Avondale.

During his January confirmation hearing HUD Secretary Ben Carson's signaled cuts would indeed be coming, adding that public housing assistance shouldn't be a "way of life," but rather a "springboard to move forward."

Cuts to the CDBG program aren’t new. In 2016, the program was slashed by $2.3 billion.

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A continuing resolution for the federal budget expires April 28. Congress is expected to take up the issue when they return from a two-week recess April 24.

Black wrote his office is working with the city's federal lobbyists in Washington to figure out the scope of potential cuts.

His main advice: Stay tuned.

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This story contains prior reporting from WCPO.com/WCPO Insider's Lisa Bernard-Kuhn.

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