Trump Budget Shows How Much Black People Have to Lose [OPINION]

By Shanelle Matthews Mar 21, 2017

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump asked Black Americans, "What do you have to lose?" Now that his budget has been released, the answer is clear: Black people in the United States will lose a lot under this presidency.

The budget proposal slashes funding for programs and in areas that are crucial for Black families and individuals. These include Community Development Block Grants, after-school programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Pell Grants and the size of the federal labor force.

The president’s proposal cuts 13.2 percent from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget. HUD gives federal aid to local agencies that manage housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. The agency also offers technical and professional assistance in planning, developing and managing this housing to ensure that low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities have safe, decent places to live.

There are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units, and at least 48 percent of the people are Black. The Community Development Block Grant Program—one of HUD’s longest-running initiatives that addresses a wide range of development needs for extremely poor communities—will likely face drastic reductions. So would Section 8 Housing, which offers assistance to low- and moderate-income families to rent private housing.

In addition, a number of programs geared toward helping low-income children will be eliminated or significantly reduced. Before- and after-school programs would lose $1.2 billion under Trump’s proposed plan.

With such a dramatic reduction of the discretionary budget, federal workers will be laid off. Black people make up about 20 percent of the federal workforce. The unemployment rate for Black Americans is also much higher than for other groups. This is not the time to lay off thousands of workers.

The proposal comes in the wake of Trump’s signing of an executive order on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in which he promised support for these critical institutions. For all the rhetoric and bluster, his budget caps HBCU funding at 2016 levels. This is not the way to promote these educational facilities, which are so integral to the Black community, or a way to help them grow. When compared to predominantly White institutions, HBCUs have a disproportionate impact on generating college-educated Black Americans. Although they account for roughly 3 percent of all colleges and universities, over 20 percent of Blacks graduate from these institutions.We need more people attending HBCUs, not fewer.

To add insult to injury, Trump’s plan disincentives institutions from enrolling poorer students by cutting reliable federal financial support funding like Pell Grants. The program, which has been around since 1972, is the largest federal grant program helping low-income families send their kids to college. The president’s budget slashes the program by more than $3.9 billion, more than a third of the proposed $9 billion cut to the Department of Education.

The federal programs and agencies that are facing budget cuts are crucial for so many poor, Black individuals and families. While Black Americans make up about 13 percent of the total U.S. population, nearly 27 percent of Black people live in poverty, and approximately 46 percent of Black children are classified as poor.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised a "New Deal for African Americans." Between his healthcare plan—which will leave tens of millions of Black people without insurance—to the budget—which hurts tens of millions more—this is nothing but a raw deal for Black people and anyone else who relies on the critical public programs that will be defunded.

Shanelle Matthews is an award-winning political communications strategist with a decade of experience in journalism, legislative, litigation, rapid response and campaign communications. She serves as the director of communications for the Black Lives Matter Global Network. Previous to that, she served as the deputy communications director for the Sierra Club, leading communications strategy for Beyond Coal and worked as a strategist for the ACLU of Northern California. As an alumna of Progressive Women’s Voices, Shanelle has executed her training as a spokesperson in outlets like Al Jazeera and NPR. She holds a degree in journalism and new and online media from the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University.