Trump cuts would strip $75.9 million out of Nevada programs | NevadaAppeal.com

Trump cuts would strip $75.9 million out of Nevada programs

If the Trump administration and Congress follow through on their initial list of budget cuts, Nevada would lose $75.9 million.

Many of the more than two-dozen discretionary programs the president wants to reduce or eliminate serve the poor, disabled and seniors.

"We're certainly not overly concerned at this point in time," said Mike Willden, chief of staff to Gov. Brian Sandoval. "As states, we see these budget ideas often and until Congress starts to move on them, we don't overly react."

He said the state has seen social and community services block grants "on the chopping block before."

"And they don't end up there."

He said previous presidents and Congress have called for reduction or elimination of many of the same programs including Community Development Block Grants, Community Services Block Grants and Title 20 social services grants.

But he said the state is working with Nevada's congressional delegation – especially Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei – to ensure they let fellow legislators and those in Washington know the potential impact of those types of cuts

CSBG funding is aimed at protecting the state's most vulnerable citizens — infants and children, low income families and seniors. CSBG services provided by the NV Network provided help to low-income individuals and families through community action agencies and county governments. In Nevada, those agencies would lose $3.7 million under the Trump budget. They provided services to 22,046 individuals ranging from child and family development to emergency assistance and independent living services. Three quarters of the recipients were living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, more than half in severe poverty at less than half the federal poverty level.

Some $17.5 million would be cut from the Community Development Block Grants program that provides grants to states and local communities for a wide range of needs from low and moderate income housing to community and economic development projects.

One of the largest programs slated for elimination is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program administered by the Welfare Division that, in 2016, served 26,936 households and spent $18.5 million, $9.9 million of that in federal money, the rest from the UEC — Universal Energy Charge — attached to everyone's power bills.

Willden said if federal funding for the energy assistance program is eliminated, "We either serve less people, provide less benefit or consider raising the UEC assessment."

Willden said the same is true in numerous other programs — if federal money is cut or goes away, it's up to the state to decide how to react.

Unlike energy assistance, some of those programs don't have another funding source. He said if the $2.1 million in the Senior Services Employment Program is eliminated, "we would have to look at whether those seniors could fit into other programs, other work programs we have."

That program provided training to 436 seniors to get them jobs in the past year. Eliminating the program, state officials say, would reduce the opportunities for Nevada's seniors to be self-sufficient, productive contributing members of society.

Likewise, the Weatherization Assistance Program to improve energy efficiency of homes for low-income families served 1,341 people in 2016, spending a bit more than $5 million. That included work on 85 houses, 51 of them occupied by elderly residents and 38 by those with disabilities.

Unfortunately, Willden said, there may not be ways to pump other money into those reduced or eliminated programs.

"Usually those other sources are already fully leveraged," he said.

The plan also impacts funding historically provided for programs beyond those that serve the poor, disabled and elderly. It would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Libraries program and National Endowment for the Humanities. In Nevada, that would take away $659,000, $1.76 million and $764,000 respectively.

Also zeroed out: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that helps support public television stations in Reno and Las Vegas.

The Payments in Lieu of Taxes program is on Trump's cut list. PILT was created to compensate counties particularly in the western states that have large percentages of their land owned and managed by the federal government. Federal lands don't pay property taxes and several of Nevada's counties are more than 90 percent federal. For the most recent year, PILT payments totaled $7.29 million in Nevada, revenue that is used by, in particular, rural counties for such things as law enforcement and fire suppression.

Similarly, the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act is reportedly on the list for reduction or elimination. SNPLMA is used to sell off federal lands adjacent to urban areas in Southern Nevada to make room for development. The proceeds are used for such things as environmental projects elsewhere in the state — most particularly the Lake Tahoe Basin which has received millions under the program.

Cuts to education funding would total more than $22 million, eliminating funding for educator development and the 21st Century Learning Centers program that provides grants for after school and summer programs

Although wild land fire management funding would remain about the same at $2.4 billion nationwide, analysts point out that amount doesn't meet suppression needs since, nationally, the U.S. Forest Service had to transfer $700 million from other accounts to pay the fire fighting bills last year.

The Water/Wastewater loan and grant program providing water projects to rural communities would be eliminated and a laundry list of more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency programs would lose federal money, shifting the responsibility for paying those costs to state and local governments.

Likewise, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program would be sharply reduced, shifting responsibility for funding job training and employment services to states, local governments and employers.

Potentially important to Nevada with his long list of abandoned mine sites is the more than 30 percent reduction in funding for the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account.

Trump promised during the campaign to rebuild the nation's infrastructure including roads and highways. But his plan would eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. TIGER has provided significant grants to Nevada including $16 million in funding to the Washoe County Bus Rapid Transit program and $13.3 million to the Flamingo Corridor Improvements project in Las Vegas.

Willden pointed out that in many of these areas, the budget proposal doesn't include specifics yet, only highlights. The budget made public so far deals only with discretionary spending that makes up 29 percent of the total federal budget.

He again emphasized that no one should over react "until we see whether this has some traction in Congress."