On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump boldly promised that he would “rebuild our cities.” At his infamous rallies, he stared directly into the television cameras and brazenly asked African-Americans, “What do you have to lose?” while citing false crime statistics. It turns out that the Black community has a lot to lose if his budget proposals are included in the upcoming spending bill, which must pass in order to prevent a government shutdown on April 28th.

We’ve all heard about President Trump’s proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels, but there are many lesser-known programs that he is seeking to cut or eliminate that are essential to African American communities. A group of five influencers from the political arena ranging from legislators to policy watchers spoke with EBONY, breaking down just how much we have to lose.

1. Criminal Justice Reform

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

While the numbers in President Trump’s budget proposal are striking, the greatest threat to communities of color as it relates to criminal justice reform is the person who is leading the Department of Justice. Trump’s pick to be Attorney General ­- Jeff Sessions – ­ is a staunch opponent of reforming the tragic shortcomings in our justice system. For instance, he has repeatedly criticized consent decrees, which are formal agreements the Justice Department negotiates with local governments to implement reforms in police departments. These are vital tools in combatting civil rights abuses by state and local police departments, but Attorney General Sessions has questioned their effectiveness and signaled that he may roll back many of the existing consent decrees. I can’t emphasize enough how troubling this is.

Associated Press
Cory Booker. AP

Attorney General Sessions is also reviewing the Department of Justice’s sentencing policies and is likely to increase the use of mandatory minimums. We know that mandatory minimums increase racial disparities in our broken criminal justice system and this too will harm communities of color.

2. Environment

Joy-Anne Reid

MSNBC Host, AM Joy

Trump’s proposed cuts to the EPA pose an existential crisis to poor communities, including working class communities of color, who tend – not coincidentally – to be concentrated closest to the polluters, the power plants and the toxic waste dump sites. Slashing grant funds for programs that monitor the quality of drinking water, cutting back on regional programs to clean up toxic soil, “superfund” sites and polluted waterways, and rolling back enforcement of bad corporate actors who dump waste into rivers and streams means there will be more situations like Flint, Mich. Perhaps many more.

Joy Reid. Image: Facebook
Joy-Anne Reid. Image: Facebook

Struggling communities are already at the greatest risk for having undrinkable water, lead poisoning, and other health hazards that can stunt the intellectual growth of children, and contribute to increased joblessness, homelessness, and crime. Trump, who ran as the friend of the working class, has put forward a budget that would make matters worse for those very people in order to benefit a handful of corporations and their wealthy proprietors. And we all know that when the poor are targeted, the Black and Brown poor bear the biggest burden.

3. Housing/Urban Development

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, MBA, CPA

City of Plainfield, New Jersey

You don’t rebuild cities by taking away funding for the programs that are rebuilding cities. As my fellow urban mayors can attest, it is often much more challenging to attract quality investment to cities, particularly, in the more disadvantaged neighborhoods where it is needed the most. As a result, federal government programs that help to subsidize or incentivize urban redevelopment projects are lifelines for many of our communities. Trump’s budget eliminates or drastically cuts many of these programs, which will set our cities back. Currently, in my city, Plainfield, there are 62 housing and economic development projects underway totaling nearly $250 million and most of these projects were made possible by the funding sources that President Trump wants to cut.

Mayor Adrian Mapp
Mayor Adrian Mapp. Image: City of Plainfield, N.J.

Unsung programs like Low-Income Housing Tax Credits provide significant funding for affordable housing, which keeps lower-income residents from being priced out while providing them with higher quality housing options. New Market Tax Credits fund redevelopment projects that bring much-needed commercial/retail services to disadvantaged neighborhoods, which creates jobs and reduces blight. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) provide funding for affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, public safety upgrades, and improvements for neighborhood businesses. The HOME Investment Partnerships, Choice Neighborhoods, and Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity programs help to redevelop low-income neighborhoods while making homeownership more accessible.
Urban redevelopment helps to create safer and more prosperous communities, which is why it is so important that we know and understand these programs and fight to protect them.

4. Healthcare

Michellene Davis, Esq.

Executive Vice President & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer

RWJBarnabas Health

The African-American community is already dealing with significant health disparities and health inequities in myriad areas, including infant mortality, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and hypertension. But health is impacted by more than just access to care. Numerous studies now evidence the truth, which so many of us in the African-American community have known for years, that health and well-being are determined by factors outside of the doctor’s office such as food security (having ample access to affordable and nutritious food), housing, employment, and education. These factors have been shown to be a larger determinant of health than merely access to healthcare. Communities where vulnerable populations live with multiple insecurities are that much more likely to be unhealthy and all of these areas are under attack in President Trump’s proposed budget.

Michellene Davis. Photo: LinkedIn
Michellene Davis. Photo: LinkedIn

Among the many disturbing budget details is the proposal to defund the National Institute of Health (NIH), which is currently in the midst of the largest study on breast cancer in Black women that’s ever been done. This at a time when it is well known that African-American women have higher incidences of mortality due to breast cancer. Simultaneously, his budget will increase funding to prevent and treat opioid addictions. This impacts white americans at a significantly higher rate because studies show that, due to an unconscious bias, doctors are more likely to prescribe opioids to white patients rather than to non-White patients for pain management. Also, Trump’s budget would cut $2.2 billion from the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition assistance program, which affects those both inside and outside of the African American community who find themselves suffering from financial instability.

In its issue brief entitled, “Housing is Good Medicine” the RWJ Foundation reflects that, “good health depends on having homes that are safe and free from physical hazards.” The Trump budget would cut the funding to HUD by $6 billion. HUD programs are essential to maintaining good health in our communities. Older housing stock has been known to contribute to lead poisoning, which irreversibly affects brain and nervous system development and can be detrimental to the wellbeing, intelligence, and future of our children.

The African-American community, and America as a whole, cannot afford President Trump’s proposed budget.

5. Education

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

United States House of Representatives

12th District, New Jersey

The President’s budget proposal makes it abundantly clear that he is not only furthering his attacks on working families and vulnerable communities, but he also seeks to halt the innovation, investments, and resources that truly make our nation great. Funneling billions of dollars into military spending at the expense of our nation’s infrastructure, the education of our youth, and clean air and water is simply disgraceful. The message that President Trump is sending with this budget exposes his true intention to make good on his harmful campaign promises instead of prioritizing America’s best interests.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. Image: U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. Image: U.S. House of Representatives

Compounding his poor choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, the President’s proposed cuts would decimate funding and opportunities for our nation’s students, particularly Black students. Trump’s proposed budget would slash funding to the Department of Education by almost 13.5 percent ($9.2 billion) and it would cut financial support for programs that provide needed resources to communities of color and vulnerable students.

Budget Highlights
The proposed Trump budget:

  •         Eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program—$1.2 billion for afterschool and summer programs;
  •         Cuts $200 Million from TRIO and GEAR UP, which prepare and support first generation and low-income college students;
  •         Cuts $3.9 million from Pell Grant reserves, and completely eliminates Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, both of which help low-income students afford college;
  •         Expands voucher and charter school programs by $1.4 billion, which would siphon funds away from already underfunded public schools;
  •         Eliminates Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants to help hire and train teachers which is currently funded at $2.25 billion.
  •       Proposes to cut $85 million from HBCUs, despite Trump’s promise to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities after meeting with their presidents in February.;

Fortunately, this is solely a proposal, and leaves the onus on Congress to ensure that the budget aligns with this nation’s values. Values that continue to expand educational opportunity, preserve our nation’s prosperity, and guarantee national security and the health of all Americans. It is unfortunate that we have to defend these core values against a presidential administration.