Donald Trump’s budget: A ‘declaration of war’ on Philly

Five effects we’d see, from dirtier neighborhoods to more foreclosures.

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How much of an effect could President Donald Trump’s policies really have on Philadelphia?

The stripped-down budget the White House released this week offered some detail. In it, Trump recommended cuts to many federal organizations that contribute funding to Philadelphia, such as Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. The budget also included increases in funding for lead-paint removal programs and heroin treatment programs. City Council President Darrell Clarke, in a statement, called the budget “a declaration of war on low-income people, the middle class, and seniors.”

None of Trump’s cuts are final. Lawmakers from both sides have expressed problems with budget, and it will almost certainly be adjusted. But according to what’s in the budget now, these are five concrete ways you would notice Trump’s cuts locally.

Dirtier, less-organized neighborhoods

Plenty of efforts have been made recently to reduce Philadelphia’s litter problem. Trump’s budget could make that goal more difficult through the elimination of all Community Development Block Grants. These federal funds are disbursed to cities throughout the country, and last year Philly received nearly $40 million of them.

Among the hardest hit by this action would be neighborhood associations. In the most recent fiscal year, various organizations received a combined $1.1 million, using it to pay for managers of commercial corridors and cleaning crews.

“They beautify the corridor and sell vacant storefronts and also kind of keep it clean of litter,” said Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. “Almost all of that is funded by CDBG.”

Without CDBG dollars, those positions would be drastically reduced or eliminated. Less trash would be picked up along neighborhood corridors, and small businesses would get less support without assistance and organization from neighborhood management.

About 20 neighborhood groups received significant funding from CDBGs, including Tacony CDC, Newbold CDC, Allegheny West Foundation, Frankford CDC and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

Higher foreclosure rates and other problems for low-income homeowners

CDBG funding is also used for programs that assist the development of affordable housing and rehabilitation of old housing. Philly, like many other big cities, already has way less supply than needed to meet affordable housing demand. The CDBG cuts could further widen the gap.

McConnell pointed to Neighborhood Advisory Committees as one group that would also likely be eliminated. Neighborhood Advisory Committees serve a variety of purposes, but one of the most important is sending staff to residents facing foreclosure and explaining to them how they can save their house. Those house calls would be history.

Sanctuary city status problems?

One line of Trump’s budget is being seen as a de facto salvo against sanctuary cities. Per the budget, $210 million in federal funding is being eliminated for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. California receives about $50 million a year, including $6 million for Los Angeles. Chicago receives about $1.3 million. But this particular cut would barely impact Philadelphia.

Per Department of Justice data, in fiscal year 2016, the city received no funding as part of the SCAAP, and in 2015 and 2014 received only about $150,000 each year (counties across Pennsylvania received a combined $2 million in FY 2016). That’s hardly enough to impact the Police Department’s nearly $700 million annual budget.

This morning, Police Commissioner Richard Ross released a statement in an email titled “City Public Safety Leaders Oppose Defunding ‘Sanctuary’ Cities” saying, “Threatening the removal of valuable grant funding from jurisdictions that choose not to spend limited resources enforcing federal immigration law is extremely problematic. Removing these funds that contribute to the health and well-being of communities across the nation would not make our communities safer and would not fix any part of our broken immigration system.”

Asked for details about what part of the budget the city would consider as possibly defunding sanctuary cities, Lauren Hitt, director of communications for the Mayor’s Office, said they would have more detail available next week about the possible impact of Trump’s budget on the Police Department.

Less research for Temple, Penn

As an Eds and Meds city, Philadelphia relies greatly on Temple, Drexel, Penn, Jefferson and others to maintain world-class reputations as research hospitals. They could lose significant amounts of National Institutes of Health funding because of Trump’s budget, which calls for a reduction of NIH funding of nearly $6 billion, from $31.7 billion to $25.9 billion.

The majority of grants given by the NIH go toward research, so any possible changes would likely go unnoticed at the day-to-day level, but could add up over time. Here’s the total amounts of NIH grants received by Philly institutions in the last fiscal year. This funding wouldn’t dry up altogether but could be reduced.

  • CHOP: $14.5M
  • Drexel: $4.3M
  • Five Eleven Pharma: $225K
  • Integral Molecular: $686K
  • Monell Chemical Senses Center: $567K
  • Phelix Therapeutics: $1.4M
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center: $5.7M
  • Temple: $14.7M
  • Thomas Jefferson: $14.6M
  • Penn: $97M

Infrastructure problems

Ever heard of TIGER grants? Philadelphia has gotten many of these in the past, and they are generally used to renovate pieces of infrastructure that can’t be covered by local or state money. In 2015, for instance, Philly received about $10 million for building the Schuylkill River Swing Bridge Trail near Grays Ferry, and for renovating American Street in Kensington. Last year, we got a $2.5 million TIGER grant to study Roosevelt Boulevard, the most dangerous road in Philadelphia.

Trump plans to cut TIGER grants completely. It wouldn’t have any effect on the ongoing projects, like for Roosevelt Boulevard, but no money would be available for similar projects in the future.