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Trump budget threatens Baltimore poverty programs

Midnight on July 1 rang in what local government folks call the new fiscal year. And even if some Baltimore finance nerds celebrated the start of a government's new spending plan, they had fewer reasons to rejoice about fiscal year 2018.

That's because it could be the last for the approximately $3 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant funds. President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the four-decade-old program, known as CDBG, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's budget.

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For Baltimore that could mean a loss of $19 million for programs that help the city's poorest residents. Nearly $8 million has been approved for 61 nonprofits that provide programs that include literacy education, job training, early child care and home ownership counseling.

HUD allocated the requested funding for the current year but Trump's budget for next year calls for eliminating the program.

"Since 1980, and most recently in 2013, HUD studies found that CDBG is increasingly not well targeted to the poorest communities and has not demonstrated a measurable impact on communities," a HUD statement explained.

The proposed cuts threaten $1.2 million the city uses to board-up vacant structures deemed to be a threat to public safety; $625,000 for employment and academic skills training provided by Living Classrooms Foundation; and $500,000 for after-school programs administered by the Family League of Baltimore; and $240,000 for housing rehabilitation conducted by Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake.

"We have not heard this kind of rhetoric around CDBG funding before," said James Piper Bond, chief executive of Living Classrooms Foundation. "This would have a significant impact on what Living Classrooms is doing in the community, especially with helping people toward self sufficiency coming out of public housing."

The organization also helps city residents returning from incarceration to earn a wage while learning jobs skills.

"We're OK for now," Bond added. But, he said, the cuts would have "serious impact" on the city and the group, which leverages the federal money to attract matching private donations.

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