Cross currents

Trump’s budget ax poised over block grants, and other thoughts

Column by Bill Christopher
Posted 4/12/17

One of several onerous budget proposals which President Trump has unveiled is to eliminate Community Development Block Grant funds distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development …

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Cross currents

Trump’s budget ax poised over block grants, and other thoughts

Posted

One of several onerous budget proposals which President Trump has unveiled is to eliminate Community Development Block Grant funds distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to states and local governments.

Dating back to 1974, this is the longest-running HUD grant program. The intent of these funds has always been to address the needs of low- and moderate-income populations and geographical areas.

Eligible project activities in part include such categories as economic development, certain public facility and infrastructure improvements and affordable housing activities.

Each city and county has such challenges, regardless of size or location. For Colorado, $34 million of CDBG funds are currently received.

The City of Westminster will receive an estimated $550,000 in the current fiscal year.

A domino effect

It is hard to picture a total elimination of the CDBG program given the targeted beneficiaries. While I believe it is doubtful that Trump will succeed in getting all of his budget changes, including CDBG, through Congress, it is likely that he will achieve partial success on some of his proposals.

However, even a partial cutback in funds would be detrimental to the most vulnerable group of American citizens. The impact could come in a variety of ways.

For example, this funding source is used to help keep low-income seniors in their homes by providing funds for house repairs, like furnaces, plumbing, electrical work and handicap improvements.

Funds can also go toward a down payment on purchasing a home for families who are below certain HUD income levels.

In the past, Westminster has used some of the funds for water or sewer line replacement projects or street pavement enhancements in lower-income Census tracts. The city has also used considerable funds on the above-mentioned home repair program. Vendors who carry out these services, such as Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., would also be hurt financially if there was not such work to perform.

Hopefully, Congress will stand its ground on protecting the CDBG program funds and continue to assist the lowest income groups in our society.

Westminster trash issue still brewing

In case you missed the significance of Westminster City Council's last move, the trash hauling issue is far from dead.

While the council decided not to take action on the bids which it had solicited, it did direct city staff to negotiate with the interested hauling firms with the proviso that individual residents and homeowner associations could "opt out" of the single-hauler plan if they so choose.

The impact of that change is significant to the haulers in that it adds a degree of uncertainty as to the number of households that will ultimately sign up. This is bound to cause the haulers' bids (if they bid at all) to be higher.

It is anticipated that the revised bids will be back to city council within 30 days for a decision.

So, in the meantime, hug the trash hauler you are using and see what the council does next. Based on previous citizen input, which was heavily against the city getting in the trash hauling business, I would have thought the council would drop this "government overreach" endeavor.

Predicted impact of higher minimum wage

It shouldn't be a surprise to those who followed and voted on Amendment 70 last November. This was the Minimum Wage ballot issue that passed by 55 percent: 965,485 Coloradoan voters supported phasing in a minimum wage to $12 per hour by the year 2020.

We knew that increasing wages would have a direct impact on businesses' bottom line and would likely cause prices to be increased. This is especially true with restaurants. The 2017 adjustment brought the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour, with wait staff in restaurants going from $5.31- to $6.30-per-hour plus, of course, their tips.

Some restaurants have republished menus with higher prices while others have imposed a service fee or surcharge. Others have done a combination of both.

Any way you slice it, the consumer is the ultimate payer of increased costs to do business - and we should understand the way it works.

I say "hurrah" for the increase in wages, and I have no complaints paying the higher prices. That's life!!

Also, I have heard the argument against increasing the minimum wage because it never was intended to be a "living wage."

All I would say is that too many Americans today just don't have a better-paying job. The minimum wage has become their so-called "living wage" and it needed to be increased like Coloradoans have done.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Bill Christopher

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