Santa Barbara County could lose more than a million dollars in annual federal funding following President Donald Trump’s first full budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year.

The budget proposal allocates $40.7 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a 13.2 percent decrease from 2017. Part of this cut will eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which funds affordable housing and infrastructure improvements.

Above is Sabado Tarde Road, the site of a project currently underway to construct an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible sidewalk, which received CDBG funding for 2016-2017. Pei Chiao Lin/Daily Nexus

According to HUD, the CDBG program aims to provide “decent housing,” a suitable living environment and expand economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income persons.

Cutting the program will save nearly $3 billion, according to a supplemental document from the administration.

“The program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated a measurable impact on communities,” the document reads.

Since 2012, the HUD has awarded the county over a million dollars each year to fund projects such as improving infrastructure to include more Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible paths, offering food and shelter to vulnerable individuals and providing support services to children and families.

Approximately $1.5 million is allocated to the county each year, with the exception of fiscal year 2016-17. This year the city of Lompoc withdrew from a partnership which qualifies the county to apply for the CDBG grant, decreasing the amount of funding received.

The following chart shows the amount of funding the county has received in the past five years. The data was compiled from annual Action Plans from the county’s Community Services Department.

CDBG Allocation by Fiscal Year
Supriya Yelimeli/Daily Nexus

This year, one of the CDBG recipients included the Isla Vista Youth Projects, which used the awards to help purchase its operating building — the Isla Vista Children’s Center. The project’s executive director, LuAnn Miller, said the facility serves an average of 100 children per year.

Miller said 90 percent of those children are from low-income families, enabling parents to work and attend school to support their families.

“Our campaign [to purchase the building] raised $1.2 million to accomplish this feat, thus ensuring the youngest residents of Isla Vista/Goleta will receive early care and education in our fully day, year found nationally accredited program,” Miller said in an email.

The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, another recipient of the CDBG, applied for funding to increase awareness about sexual assault and reach out to parts of the Isla Vista community not usually serviced through UC Santa Barbara, according to Program Director Idalia Gomez.

“Although there are great services at UCSB, City College students, Latino families and Spanish-speaking community members don’t often access services through the university,” Gomez said. “So we wanted to ensure that through this program that they would be able to have access to very similar services but through the community.”

Gomez said the county recently recommended that the center receive CDBG funding for the upcoming year, but after learning that the grant may not go through, such accommodations were placed on hold.

“At this point, we’re not sure if those recommendations will move forward in the future, but on our side we continue to work to ensure that our services are available to the greater community of Santa Barbara,” Gomez said.

Leah Gonzales, program manager of Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), said for a number of years WEV has been awarded CDBG funds for business planning classes that aim to help low-income women launch or expand their business.

When she learned about the proposed cuts to the program, she said she was “cautiously optimistic” it would not pass due to the amount of people affected in local communities.

“Probably the average person may not understand or have heard of the CDBG grant,” Gonzales said. “But we have launched our own advocacy efforts to really help educate the community on how important and how integral these funds are to the many nonprofit organizations, especially in Santa Barbara County, that depend on it.”

In mid-April WEV participated in a #Fight4CDBG press conference, organized by the Santa Barbara Mayor, Helene Schenider and attended by Congressman Salud Carbajal.

Gonzales said while advocacy efforts helped pass a resolution that maintained or increased funding for CDBG, it will only be active until Sept. 30.

She said she hopes the public will become more informed about the grant and call elected representatives to increase funding for it rather than decrease or eliminate it.

“It’s a surprising plan [the proposed federal budget], given how many people it impacts at local levels, but we hope that the community and the elected officials will listen to their constituents and help support the continuation of CDBG funds,” she said.

A version of this story appeared on p.1 of the Thursday, June 1, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.