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Rep. Matt Cartwright: Budget cuts lifelines

May 25, 2017
In The News

Scranton natives — I’ll call them Robert and Linda — both worked full-time jobs and were financially secure until they experienced a series of misfortunes. Not only did the couple lose part of their hard-earned pensions, but they both were denied raises and overtime due to their employers’ financial troubles.

Making matters more difficult, they experienced medical issues, car problems, and a flooded basement. Despite their persistence, the couple faced foreclosure.

Thanks to local assistance funded by the Community Development Block Grant program, the couple received a permanent home loan modification and was able to keep their home.

There are thousands of hard-working Americans in Northeastern Pennsylvania, just like Robert and Linda, who would be severely impacted by proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These cuts break one of President Trump’s central campaign promises to revive distressed communities. HUD Secretary Ben Carson also reneged on vows he made during his confirmation hearings to broaden access to affordable housing.

The proposed budget slashes $6.2 billion from HUD and eliminates CDBG, a lifeline for hard-working Americans.

Most low-income Pennsylvanians who receive support are seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and families with children. In Luzerne County, 65 percent of homes were built before 1970, and many low-income homeowners struggle to keep their aging homes from disrepair. Luzerne County’s Emergency Home Rehabilitation Program, funded by CDBG, offers help to low-income households that experience unexpected and immediate dangers such as loss of heat or water, lead-based paint hazards, and accessibility issues. In Northampton County, where 51 percent of renter households pay at least 30 percent of their income on rent, CDBG funds prevent homelessness by helping seniors, small families, and minority families keep their own homes through rent and utility assistance.

CDBG supports the Meals on Wheels’ Better Fresh program by investing in equipment to process and package locally grown produce for meals delivered to seniors and disabled adults.

CDBG only provides funding after an extensive application process. The application requires proof that at least 70 percent of the funding will assist moderate-income residents and that administrative costs do not exceed a certain amount.

I will continue to advocate the preservation of HUD funding. HUD has provided housing assistance to more than 35 million households in the past 20 years.

I also will defend the inclusion of affordable housing in any future infrastructure funding.

I have argued for the importance of funding infrastructure improvements. With a shortage of nearly 267,324 affordable rental homes available to extremely low-income households in Pennsylvania alone, affordable housing must be a focus in any infrastructure plan.

Eliminating HUD funding will cost taxpayers more in the long run, as those who avoided poverty with HUD’s support will now fall back on costly emergency services like shelters, soup kitchens, and emergency rooms.

In my role on the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate the protection of HUD’s funding. Public investment in affordable housing strengthens our vulnerable communities, and just because the administration retracted from its commitments does not mean I will turn my back on mine.