Trump budget could axe grant funding for Oak Park

Village received $1.6M in community development money in 2016


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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Social service agencies, nonprofits and the village itself could lose millions in federal grant funding under a preliminary budget from the Trump administration that has surfaced in recent days.

The Washington Post reported on March 8 that an early draft of the proposed budget it obtained for the Department of Housing and Urban Development would eliminate the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Oak Park spent $1.6 million in CDBG funds in 2016 on numerous projects connected to public services, infrastructure improvements and economic development.

The village distributes much of the funding to local nonprofit organizations, such as Oak Park Regional Housing Center (promoting housing integration), Housing Forward (homeless support), Sarah's Inn (domestic violence), West Cook YMCA, Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry and Hephzibah (at-risk services) among many others.

The village also uses CDBG funds for infrastructure improvements such as making sidewalks ADA accessible, improving deteriorating alleys and promoting housing rehab programs.

Village officials and heads of nonprofit organizations were not surprised by the news that CDBG grant funds could be eliminated. 

It's not the first time this has happened, said Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. When CDBG funding faced cuts under past administrations, elected officials at the federal and state level rallied in a bipartisan effort to secure the funding, he said. 

This time it's different, Breymaier said, because "we just don't know what to expect from this administration."

The Housing Center received $171,000 in CDBG funds distributed through the village in fiscal year 2016 — the grant program's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 — to assist in its mission of encouraging racial integration in housing. Breymaier said that makes up roughly 15 percent of the organization's $1.2 million annual budget. 

Those funds help pay the salaries of one seasonal and three full-time employees at the center, Breymaier said. "Without that money, we would lose at least two full-time staff," he said.

Breymaier said Housing Center staff helps find housing for those in Oak Park and encourages people of different races to live in the same areas of town to prevent segregation. The staff also works to provide educational material on fair housing law and other resources to help identify and address housing discrimination.

"You want to be pro-active on these things," Breymaier said.

CDBG cuts also would hit the bottom line of Housing Forward, a social service organization that operates an emergency shelter and works to transition homeless people into permanent housing.

Lynda Schueler, Housing Forward executive director, said she has not seen anything in the press about cuts to HUD's Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, but she and others are concerned that it could be cut as well under Trump's budget.

Schueler said Housing Forward receives about $300,000 annually in CDBG and ESG funding between Oak Park, Cook County and the city of Berwyn. ESG grants constitute about two-thirds of that funding.

"There are numerous program activities funded by that," she said.

Street outreach to homeless people, employment training, shelter service, homeless prevention and the organization's housing program are all partly funded through CDBG and ESG funds, she said.

"Upwards of 1,000 people would be impacted by those programmatic cuts," she said. "The other important thing here is we have 20 communities within our service area, so it's not just Oak Park. Those cuts would be devastating."

Left without funding, Housing Forward officials would have to "make strategic decisions on which programs to cut," Schueler said.

"One of the things we pride ourselves on is the comprehensive nature of our programming."

Grant funding cuts would force Housing Forward to decide "which population are we best going to serve?"

Schueler said Housing Forward staff also is grappling with potential cuts to Medicaid in a revamped health care policy under the Trump Administration as well as the administration's proposal to cut the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds the AmeriCorps program.

A dozen local AmeriCorps members are made available to Housing Forward, two of which are contracted through Housing Forward to the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry and another two to BEDS Plus Care, a homeless shelter and housing services organization in La Grange.

"We have eight of the 12 [AmeriCorps workers] and that is another significant impact," she said.

Nonprofit organizations are not the only ones that would be hit by elimination of CDBG funds. The village of Oak Park would also be directly impacted. 

The village used $638,759 in CDBG funds in fiscal year 2016 on various infrastructure improvements. Those improvements included $375,000 for alley repairs, $150,000 to make sidewalks accessible to those with mobility impairments, and $113,759 to add ADA-compliant curb ramps to streets around town.

 Tammie Grossman, Oak Park's Development Customer Services director, said CDBG funding has eroded over more than a decade. Drew Williams-Clark, Oak Park Neighborhood Services Manager, said 12 years ago HUD allotted $2.5 million in CDBG funding to the village.

Grossman said that while she, too, is concerned about community development fund cuts, "There's always been strong bipartisan support for CDBG funds."

Once the president's proposed budget is released, it still must go through numerous congressional budget hearings.

"We're taking a wait-and-see attitude on the final budget," she said, noting that municipalities and nonprofits across the country are working with organizations to show budget committee members how vital the grant program is to keeping social services afloat. 

* This article was updated to correct an error. Two of the 12 AmeriCorp workers are at the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry, not the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation. We regret the error.


Reader Comments

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Mike Hanline  

Posted: March 16th, 2017 10:38 AM

What Trump and his administration are preparing is a war budget ($54B increase to defense budget despite the fact that our it's already by far the largest (not to mention bloated with waste and pork) in the world, at the expense of services for the poor, the arts and sciences, the environment, etc. That leads to two questions: who are we preparing to go to war with (Iran?), and when does Trump start delivering on his promises to help the working and middle classes? Last time I checked, reckless deregulation and corporate giveaways don't pay the bills or put food on the table for regular Americans.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 12:43 PM

Spending so much money on the Housing Center sure seems out dated. That money could go to a food bank instead of office rent and staff, to help people find apartments when anyone can find an apartment on their own just fine. The biggest challenge to integration these days is rising rents from property taxes and crazy referendums.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 11:17 PM

I agree with you Ada. Both parties are quite dysfunctional - in their own way of course. They each have their particular brand of dysfunction. That is why I agree with a corollary of what you are saying: focus on the local. In term of "every day stuff" you can accomplish so much more.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 10:17 PM

as soon as everyone starts realizing this isn't a party problem - and starts realizing it's a politician problem - then maybe we can all get on the same page and start creating results. Both parties have screwed this country. Every 4-8 years one tries to fix what they feel the other has ruined - and nothing makes it to fruition. In the meantime - we need to figure out how to help keep some of these organizations afloat without federal funding...if this is the case.

Michael P. Fiorino  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 8:09 PM

Steven Woltman: You are just another Republican shill who bought the lies and drank the kool-aid that has been proffered by the right wing for the last 35+ years. We're not interested in hearing any more of it. Why go on about Hillary like you're doing? You guys have the ball right now. What are you doing with it? I see nothing except endless excuses. It will be proven that the Democratic Party will be the one that can provide real government...all the GOP can provide is hatred, stupidity, and excuses. Just watching events unfold over here...

Barbara Joan  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 5:17 PM

Total rubbish! This was an issue long ago before Trump was even a candidate., yet look at how much hate resonates from oppressives..

Steven Woltman  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 5:12 PM

Bruce, you're so confused. Our taxes are out of control because of the Dems, not the Repubs. Obama tripled the national debt. Peter, secede? Really? Not pay Federal taxes? How would you justify no military defense? Or, how would you justify no scientific research to fight disease, Space exploration, Welfare, or Infrastructure? Give me a break. Here's a tidbit the media failed to inform the ignorant public, HUD sued Hilary's Westchester County (NY) for fraud. The county took over million dollars in HUD funding for affordable housing for one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in our nation, Clinton's backyard. Yet Westchester didn't use the money for that purpose and the Fair Housing folks sued and prevailed. Westchester subsequently began to build this multi-family low income property 20 miles out of town, next to a railroad (so as not to soil their affluent neighborhood with low income peeps). To date this property still hasn't been completed. Furthermore the $700K HUD settlement Westchester owed to the government still hasn't been paid back. When did this all go down? While Hillary was the State Senator of N.Y. She's a lying duplicitous hypocrite and racial pig. Just say'n. The more you know!

Peter Saltzman  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 4:44 PM

Very simply: let's stop paying taxes to the federal government. While we technically don't need to secede quiet yet, we should all apply our taxes locally. To hell with Trump. He's not our president.

Renee Geweniger Zoltowski  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 4:36 PM

Yes, he cares about EVERY American, NOT. I have never been more scared about our country's future as I am now.

Elizabeth Titus Rexford from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 4:12 PM

The future is becoming darker and darker. We will lose services that are needed. If the Dist. 97 referendum fails, the schools will be joy-less without art and music. We are already paying high property taxes. What about the state? Oh, wait, they can't do a darn thing.

John H. Wilharm III  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 4:07 PM

This is the saddest thing that I have ever read. I'm literally tearing up over my keyboard.

Bruce Shabino  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 3:49 PM

Just raise our taxes some more. They're not nearly high enough. Thanks Trump voters!

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