How the “America First” Budget Could Affect Athens

Athens, Ga.– Federal funds used for everything from affordable housing to free job training are up for elimination in President Trump’s proposed “America First” budget. The federal government provides a portion of these funds to Athens each year through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The $3 billion program is up for elimination because it “is not well targeted” and “has not demonstrated results” according to the budget presented to Congress.

This year, the federal government allocated $275,000 to the Athens Land Trust (ALT) to fund various local initiatives through the Athens-Clarke County Housing and Community Development program.

The Trust uses CDBG funds in part to provide free small businesses classes to the community. Rashe Malcolm, owner and co-founder of “Rashe’s Cuisine,” took those classes three years ago and receives ongoing support from the ALT. “I couldn’t imagine someone coming in behind me and not being able to have those same opportunities,”

“I couldn’t imagine someone coming in behind me and not being able to have those same opportunities,” Rashe said.

CDBG funding is also used to fund the Athens Land Trust’s purchase and renovation of “problem properties” to turn into affordable housing for low-income single and multi-family use says Executive Director Heather Benham.

Benham doesn’t know where funding for these types of projects would come from if the Community Development Block Grant program is eliminated.

“Lots of sources of money are willing to pay for a project, but not necessarily all the work that goes around making the project happen,” he said.

Nothing is final yet. Benham says it is her wish that the people making the decisions are educated on what the impact of those decisions will be. She is optimistic that the program won’t be cut when the “decision-makers” look closely at its effects.

The federal government has provided these funds to the ATL since 1999. The “America First” budget has been sent to Congress for review. It should be sent to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees by April 1.

By: Casey Rose

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