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Proposed HUD cuts concern local nonprofits 

Steep cuts to the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) proposed by the Trump Administration include the elimination of a popular grant program that provides more than $1 million annually to nonprofit organizations in SLO County.

The proposed “blueprint” for the 2018 federal budget released by the White House earlier this month calls for a more than $6.2 billion, or a 13.2 percent cut to HUD’s budget. It includes the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which has provided more than $20 million in funding over the last 10 years to SLO County nonprofits to tackle issues like affordable housing, drug treatment, and homelessness.

The CDBG grant program provides block grants to states, counties, and municipalities, who parcel out the funds to nonprofit and other community organizations that apply for them.

“The federal government has spent over $150 billion on this block grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results,” the administration’s budget blueprint stated.

Last year, SLO County received more than $1.6 million in CDBG funds. A large portion of that funding went to local organizations that provide shelter and services to the homeless. That included more than $180,000 in CDBG funds to the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County to provide services at the Prado Day Center, Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, and an adult day center in Paso Robles, as well as a total of $42,848 to the nonprofit El Camino Homeless Organization, which operates a 50-bed overnight shelter and provides meals and other services to North County’s homeless population.

El Camino’s executive director, Jim Patterson, said that the grant money helps pay for staff like case managers, provide assistance like laundry vouchers and other services, and make facility improvements to become more accessible for people with disabilities.

“To lose those funds would be a significant loss to us,” Patterson said. “I was surprised to see (the proposed cuts) because these funds go back to the community to provide services and facilities to those in the greatest need.”

Eliminating the CDBG Program would also deal a blow to attempts to address SLO County’s lack of affordable housing. Last year, the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) received $190,000 in CDBG funds to help build Iron Works, a 46-unit low-income apartment complex in SLO. The project, which starts construction May, also received more than $310,000 from HOME, another HUD grant program the White House’s budget blueprint proposes to eliminate.

Scott Smith, HASLO’s executive director, said those funds were critical to financing affordable housing projects in the county for low-income individuals and families, seniors, and people with disabilities. If that money disappeared, he said, organizations like HASLO would be hard pressed to find other reliable sources.

“There’s no way to really make that up,” Smith said. “It means more people will be suffering.”

Not every SLO County nonprofit that took CDBG funding sees its potential elimination as a do-or-die scenario. Karolyn London executive director for Lifestyles Recovery Center said the nonprofit would not likely pursue CDBG grant funding for 2017 anyway. In 2016, Lifestyles got $9,580 in CDBG funds for drug and alcohol abuse relapse prevention. London said most of the organization’s funding comes from the community.

For its part, the Trump administration’s budget blueprint stressed a greater role for funding from non-federal entities rather than relying of federal dollars from HUD programs like CDBG and HOME.

“The budget also recognizes a greater role for state and local governments and the private sector to address community and economic development needs,” the document states.

SLO County Administrator Dan Buckshi noted that a president’s budget proposal is often very different than the final budget that Congress passes. However, he did acknowledge that the proposed HUD cuts, if passed, would be felt in SLO County.

“There would be significant impacts locally,” Buckshi said.

Currently, SLO County is expected to receive an estimated $1.6 million in CDGB funds for 2017. The County Board of Supervisors is expected to begin the process of discussing what grant projects to fund with the money next month.

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