Long Beach city officials sent a letter to President Trump last week, asking him to reconsider proposed federal funding cuts for community grants.
If the de-funding is approved, the city would lose more than $400,000 that supports services such as job training; senior and youth programs; homeless assistance; residential rehabilitation for local homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy; improvements to local parks, playgrounds and community centers; upgrades to restrooms and buses to make them comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and beautification efforts like tree planting. Long Island as a whole would lose about $13 million in 32 municipalities, according to the letter.
City Manager Jack Schnirman and City Council members Len Torres, Scott Mandel, Anissa Moore, Chumi Diamond and Anthony Eramo wrote, “On behalf of the residents of the City of Long Beach, we strongly urge you to refrain from eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program — this is unprecedented and unconscionable.”
According to the April 3 letter, CDBG funding is awarded to various nonprofit organizations that “provide critical public services to at-risk populations.”
“This funding has been in place in Long Beach for the past 43 years,” Schnirman told the Herald, “and it is absolutely critical funding that our community cannot afford to lose.”
The Long Beach Community Development Department distributes the CDBG funds in the city, which support bus services, programs at the Martin Luther King Center, others overseen by the Department of Parks and Recreation, and youth and senior citizen programs hosted by local community centers like the Magnolia Senior Center.
“The most impact we’re going to find is with kids,” said Torres, the council president. “We’re very concerned.”
The city is looking for alternate funding, he said, like donations from philanthropic organizations and well-known people like comedian and actor Billy Crystal, a former Long Beach resident. “We will continue to look for ways to raise money,” Torres said.
“It really creates a situation where we have to prioritize who gets what,” he added. “It’s like giving out money like they’re peanuts to people.”
Torres emphasized that the letter was a nonpartisan effort to make more people aware of the issue. “Even people that voted for Trump need to stand up and say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not a wise thing to do with kids,’” he said. “It really does not benefit this country to do that to kids. [We’re] just simply stating the loss that hurts the most vulnerable people that are here in Long Beach. We’re going to try every means we have to try to fill the void.”
Trump’s proposed cut is part of a $6 billion reduction in next year’s budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he is opposed to the cuts, and is pushing to maintain funding for Long Island’s senior centers, including the Magnolia Senior Center.
“Decimating CDBG would be incredibly damaging to Long Island because it is a non-replaceable stream of investment in essential services for area residents and economic development projects,” Schumer said in a statement. “That is why I will fight these drastic cuts tooth and nail to make sure the CDBG program remains fully funded and that Long Island gets the money it needs.”
City officials said they had yet to receive a response to the letter. “We are hopeful that this program will go forward as planned,” Schnirman said, “but it’s in the hands of Congress and the president.”