With President Trump hoping to cut funding to an amalgam of domestic programs and add to an already-gargantuan military budget, leaders in his home borough are warning that nonprofits would be in for a financial blow to the solar plexus.
“It’s a budget that could really starve some of our constituents,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said during a roundtable meeting with nonprofit leaders at her district office last Friday. “Donald Trump may be a son of Queens, but he really has forgotten what it means to take care of folks in this borough.”
The congresswoman was recently appointed to the Appropriations Committee. “If you are putting America first, you don’t cut $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, an almost 20 percent decrease in agency funding,” she said.
Meng says other proposed cuts — $9 billion from the U.S. Department of Education, $6.2 billion from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $2.6 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency and $12.6 billion from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — would be devastating. She added that other programs — the National Endowment for the Arts and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program — could be decimated.
Tova Klein, the vice president of senior communities at Selfhelp Community Services, says that the HUD cuts would be disastrous.
“We’re talking about cutting the subsidies to the people who right now are paying 30 percent of their income in rent,” she said. If Trump’s proposed funding decrease to the agency is passed, Klein added, people will be forced from their homes and “all-out war in housing courts” would follow.
The South Asian Council for Social Services is worried about losing NIH funds it uses to educate taxi drivers about staying healthy as well as monitoring and maintaining their well-being in addition to giving them pedometers and conduct health fairs. According to SACSS Health Services Director Rehan Mahmood, the effects would be dramatic on taxi drivers, whose jobs often lead to health issues.
“Recently, a taxi driver living in Flushing had a heart attack and he passed away,” he said, adding that the man was just 49 years old. Many in the profession, Mahmood said, learn about ways of staying fit from SACSS.
Trump has proposed axing 25 grant programs from the Office of Violence Against Women. Shelby Chestnut of the New York City Anti-Violence Project worries about the effect of such a measure in Queens. Many transgender immigrants in the borough, she said, receive legal services from the anti-violence group.
“It’s vital that we have these services in place,” said Chestnut, the nonprofit’s director of community organizing and public advocacy.
The president’s proposed spending decreases would, according to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst CEO Israel Rocha, increase the burden on healthcare facilities.
“If you are taking away the ability for people to control the climates in their homes, you’re actually making them further reliant on healthcare services and you’re making an unsafe environment for them to heal,” he said, referring to Trump’s planned decimation of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The Queens Museum could lose north of $400,000 if the president gets his way. According to the institution’s deputy director, David Strauss, the funding is used for initiatives like art exhibitions, international film programs, concerts, virtual tours for homebound seniors and art-therapy programs for children who have special needs.
The number of contractors that the city hires could go down. “Asian Americans get 1.4 percent of city contracts,” Asian American Federation Executive Director Jo-Ann Yoo said, adding that a decrease in federal funding to the five boroughs might result in even fewer contracts going to the demographic.
Alfonso Lopez, a legislative representative of the New York City Office of Federal Affairs who focuses on public safety issues, spelled out a few areas causing concern in the de Blasio administration. One is the proposed $677 million in cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The cut itself is concerning, in and of itself because FEMA is where a lot of the grant programs are housed,” he said, “grant programs that fund the state Homeland Security grant program and the Urban Area Security Initiative, UASI, which we rely on heavily, to support not just NYPD’s efforts but also the FDNY, the Department of Health efforts for security and also the Office of Emergency Management.”