Proposed Cuts To Block Grants Spark 'Outrage, Panic' President Obama's budget proposal includes a roughly $300 million cut from the Community Development Block Grant program. Popular with state and local governments, the program funds everything from affordable housing to job creation programs. Local officials from both parties say such cuts will only hurt cash-strapped cities and counties.
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Proposed Cuts To Block Grants Spark 'Outrage, Panic'

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Proposed Cuts To Block Grants Spark 'Outrage, Panic'

Proposed Cuts To Block Grants Spark 'Outrage, Panic'

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Earlier this month, the president announced plans to cut $1.1 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. Many mayors and other locally-elected officials are greatly concerned about one proposal: Cuts to the longstanding Community Development Block Grant Programs.

NPR's Alex Kellogg reports that even some Republicans oppose the move.

ALEX KELLOGG: Roughly 1,200 cities and counties in the U.S. receive Community Development Block Grants, also known as CDBGs. They fund everything from affordable housing to job creation programs. The government gave out nearly four billion dollars block grants last year. Most of that money went directly to cities and counties. President Barack Obama is now proposing a cut of roughly three hundred million dollars.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a Republican, opposes the cut.

Mayor MICK CORNETT (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma): There's outrage. There's panic. There's the situation that, you know, we've got to stop whatever it is we're doing and be heard on this particular issue at this particular time.

KELLOGG: Democrats and Republicans at the local level say such cuts will only hurt cash-strapped communities. But the cuts could go even further if congressional Republicans have their way. Many Republicans are pushing for a cut of roughly $2.5 billion.

Cornett is the president of Republican Mayors and Local Officials. His city received $7.1 million in block grant money in the last fiscal year alone. So he was in Washington, D.C. this week to meet with White House officials. At the top of his agenda: Pushing back on the proposed cuts. On Thursday, he joined 30 U.S. mayors who urged Congress not to move forward.

Cornett admits that on this issue, Republicans at the local and national level don't see eye to eye.

Mayor CORNETT: They have heard me year in and year out - this is an annual issue. Throughout the Bush White House years, we were receiving, you know, small cuts in CDBG. And so, I know there's not a single representative for the State of Oklahoma who doesn't already know how the mayor of Oklahoma City feels.

KELLOGG: Block were created by President Gerald Ford in 1974. They were preceded by a more complex, competitive grant processes considered far less efficient. Local officials across the country say that despite the effectiveness, they're persistently singled out for cutbacks.

Ron Loveridge is the mayor of Riverside, California. He says, given the sagging economy, this is the worse possible time to take money away from cash-strapped communities.

Mayor RON LOVERIDGE (Riverside, California): At the very time where you need this sort of help, particularly for disadvantaged members of the community, the opposite is taking place.

KELLOGG: Last year alone, Riverside used millions in block grant money for park upgrades, housing development and street improvements. But congressional Republicans argue the government is out of money and can't keep passing the nation's massive debt on to future generations.

House Republican Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland.

Representative ROSCOE BARTLETT (Republican, Maryland): We have got to make cuts. This is totally unsustainable, and business as usual is just not an option now.

KELLOGG: The National League of Cities doesnt see it that way. Jim Hunt is a council member in the small town of Clarksburg, West Virginia. He's also a past president of the NLC.

Mr. JIM HUNT (Councilman, Clarksburg, West Virginia): The one thing that Republicans and Democrats have generally joined together is to say that CDBG is a worthy program and one that shouldn't be cut.

KELLOGG: The group is not giving up. During the congressional recess this week, the NLC urged mayors and other local officials to continue to lobby their lawmakers.

Alex Kellogg, NPR News, Washington.

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.

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