Governor Wolf to Delegation: Federal Cuts Will Hurt Pennsylvanians
April 25, 2017
Harrisburg, PA – As the federal government rushes to complete a spending bill or continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown, Governor Tom Wolf is asking Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to put their constituents above the pressure of the President and congressional leaders to make deep cuts to important programs that could hurt Pennsylvanians.
In a letter to the delegation, Governor Wolf outlined how the proposed cuts would hurt their constituents, especially students, seniors, workers, the poor and those seeking treatment for addiction.
“Opposing the President’s proposed reductions for the remainder of this fiscal year is especially critical because in many cases they would lock in the disastrous Budget Blueprint, which would slash $54 billion in federal support to states including particularly the social programs which help Americans access healthcare and education benefits,” Governor Wolf wrote. “The Budget Blueprint, which was announced in mid-March, shocked members of both parties in the degree to which its cuts were targeted at Americans who can least afford them.
“The President seems intent on waging war on those who are struggling, especially in rural communities, who will disproportionately feel the effect of his proposed cuts. On behalf of these constituents and all Pennsylvania residents I call upon the Pennsylvania delegation to show a unified front in opposing these changes.”
The remainder of the governor’s letter includes an extensive analysis of how the proposed cuts would hurt Pennsylvanians and local communities, including cutting education, community and economic development funding and health and human services, attacks on our youngest and oldest, preventing laid-off workers from accessing job training services, killing jobs in the manufacturing sector, reducing funding for transportation infrastructure, leaving Pennsylvanians out in the cold, harming rural communities, defunding coal communities, and crippling environmental protection.
I am writing to share my major concerns with the $18 billion in reductions proposed by the Trump Administration for the remainder of the 2017 federal fiscal year. The cuts proposed by the President—like those first proposed in his Budget Blueprint for 2018—will hurt all Pennsylvanians, but will be especially painful to our constituents for whom government support means the most — young people, new mothers, the elderly, those receiving mental health services, and individuals struggling with addiction or other disease.
As Governor, I have focused on four key priorities to move the commonwealth forward: improving the quality of our education system by ensuring adequate funding; addressing the ravages of the heroin and opioid epidemic by ensuring the availability of excellent treatment; improving the economy while creating good paying middle class jobs; and making sure our senior citizens are treated with the respect they have earned.
Unfortunately, the reductions proposed by the President via the Office of Management and Budget will set the commonwealth back in each of these areas. As you will likely be considering either a Continuing Resolution or an Omnibus Appropriations Bill in the coming days, which may include some of the President’s requested cuts, I would like to highlight the significant negative effects these cuts will have on programs which Pennsylvania residents depend on for critical services.
Opposing the President’s proposed reductions for the remainder of this fiscal year is especially critical because in many cases they would lock in the disastrous Budget Blueprint, which would slash $54 billion in federal support to states including particularly the social programs which help Americans access healthcare and education benefits. The Budget Blueprint, which was announced in mid-March, shocked members of both parties in the degree to which its cuts were targeted at Americans who can least afford them. The President seems intent on waging war on those who are struggling, especially in rural communities, who will disproportionately feel the effect of his proposed cuts. On behalf of these constituents and all Pennsylvania residents I call upon the Pennsylvania delegation to show a unified front in opposing these changes.
The list which follows is not exhaustive, but represents a sample of the many cuts which would have an immediate negative affect on our constituents. Should you have any questions, or if you would like further detail about the effect of any of the cuts detailed below, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.
Cuts to Education
As Governor, I have made investments in Pennsylvania schools a top priority and have worked with the General Assembly to secure an historic $640 million increase in education funding since coming to office. The President’s reductions would reverse this progress by cutting nearly $3 billion from the budget of the U.S. Department of Education as a precursor to $9 billion in cuts proposed for 2018 in the Budget Blueprint.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education estimates that under the Blueprint, Pennsylvania schools would lose $443 million in federal funding for education programs, services, and research. Under the approach recommended by the President for this year and carried through in the 2018 proposal, Pennsylvania’s local education agencies would lose more than $132 million in Title II, Part A funding (cut by $1.2 billion in the President’s proposed reduction, and eliminated altogether in the 2018 proposal). This funding supports staffing, professional development, and recruitment/retention efforts for educators. The loss of these vital resources would create a significant burden and unfunded mandate for local education agencies and the state as it attempts to comply with new federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and would exacerbate existing achievement gaps between historically underserved students and their peers.
In addition, Pennsylvania would lose more than $36 million in federal funding for afterschool and out-of-school programs under the proposed elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21 CCLC) Program. This program serves nearly 50,000 children and youth across Pennsylvania every year, and provides important economic and community benefits by offering working parents and families the reassurance of safe, engaging learning spaces beyond the traditional school day.
Cuts to Funding Our Communities Depend On
Federal funding which is passed through to communities for local infrastructure and services is critical to keeping Pennsylvania communities strong. Two key federal programs which serve this purpose are the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG), both of which are administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). I suspect that every member of the delegation can name projects and programs in their district which they are proud of or had a hand in creating, which were funded by these programs. Both are on the chopping block in the 2018 Budget Blueprint and would be slashed if the President’s 2017 proposal is adopted.
The President proposes cutting funding to CDBG by $1.494 billion this year, ahead of the program’s total elimination in 2018. Pennsylvania’s total potential loss with the elimination of the program would be $169,582,362 based on 2016 allocations. The commonwealth’s allocation of CDBG funds has already been reduced by 35% since 2010. CDBG funds flow to local communities to allow them to address community infrastructure needs, particularly in low income communities and rural areas. These funds are used to make investments in important public facilities and infrastructure including senior centers, homeless shelters, parks and recreation facilities, and fire equipment. These public facilities are important gathering places and community civic centers which in many cases would not have been possible without support from this program.
The President has also requested a $306 million cut to CSBG for the remainder of this year, which would then be completely eliminated in 2018. Last year, DCED received and distributed $50 million in CSBG funds to designated community action agencies serving some of Pennsylvania’s neediest communities. These funds are used to tackle the causes and conditions of poverty through a long list of community engagement activities including employment training; community stakeholder collaboration; literacy programs; housing supports; addressing the needs of youth through programming and coordination; and increased engagement in community planning and improvement activities. The block grant has a tremendous return on investment, with every dollar spent leveraging nearly $17 from other federal, state, local and private sources.
Health and Human Services Cuts
Another cornerstone of my administration has been improving access to healthcare for all Pennsylvanians, including particularly residents with special needs including our newborns, the elderly and those with intellectual or other disabilities. The Trump proposals will negatively impact these populations in numerous ways. In addition, the administration’s attacks on women’s reproductive health care put women, especially in rural and underserved communities, at risk of having extremely limited access to essential, and often lifesaving, health services.
The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, which the President would slash by $100 million, or roughly 20%, supports a variety of community-based mental health programs and services—including priority treatment for individuals without health coverage, services for adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbance—in every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. In 2015-2016, 46,134 Pennsylvania residents received services funded with the Block Grant. The proposed cuts would force Pennsylvania to substantially curtail services and programs that depend on this funding almost immediately. This would result in a significant number of individuals losing access to the mental health services and supports they depend on.
The President has also proposed the elimination of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIPs), which the Department of Aging uses—through a program called APPRISE—to do proactive outreach to seniors to counsel them on Medicare options. With a grant of $2.1 million which would be eliminated under the President’s proposal, the APPRISE program helped serve 345,484 clients in Pennsylvania in the 2015-16 fiscal year alone.
Additionally, the President’s proposed cuts also include major reductions to several public health funding sources, including National Institute of Health research grants ($1.232 billion reduction proposed); the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program ($50 million reduction proposed); CDC Public Health Program ($50 million reduction proposed). Pennsylvania schools and research universities, as well as community-based organizations and health research systems, receive funds through these programs, which help promote better health and related outcomes for students, families, and communities throughout the commonwealth.
In recent years, the expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act has enabled Pennsylvania’s Departments of Health, Aging, and Human Services to address larger lifespan health issues by expanding home visitation programs, proactively reaching out to enroll seniors in Medicare, implementing mentoring programs for adolescents, integrating greater injury prevention work, and beginning behavioral health screenings. The proposed cuts to health and human services would jeopardize the forward progress we have made in ensuring Pennsylvanians have access to the care they need and will greatly reduce health outcomes among Pennsylvania’s young, elderly and most vulnerable populations.
Attacks on Our Youngest and Oldest
Both the 2017 requested reductions and the President’s 2018 Budget Blueprint significantly cut funding to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Pennsylvania, since 1974 WIC has provided nutrition and health services to low-income women, expecting mothers, and children. Over 230,000 Pennsylvanians are currently enrolled in WIC and receiving vital family health and nutrition benefits. The proposed $200 million cut proposed in the revision is roughly equal to what Pennsylvania received through the program in 2016. Recipients of WIC funding must meet specified eligibility requirements, including that their income be no more than 185% of the federal poverty level, meaning that these cuts are targeted exclusively at low-income mothers and their children.
For decades, the AmeriCorps and Senior Corp programs have provided a pathway for generations of lower to middle income youth to employment through post-secondary education or vocational training, and offered assistance to older residents seeking volunteer opportunities or a path to reenter the workforce. The cuts to these programs would mean that approximately 13,000 Pennsylvania Senior Corp volunteers will not receive this assistance — support that helps keep our senior residents engaged with their community and provides modest stipends to help offset basic living needs. In addition, nearly $10 million in annual AmeriCorps funding for Pennsylvania currently supports 1,362 AmeriCorps members, who help coordinate nearly 16,000 volunteers. This network mentors nearly 4,000 at-risk students, assists 924 veterans and their families, and serves 30,153 disadvantaged children and youth. Other AmeriCorps initiatives include literacy programs, college advising, youth reengagement programs, after-school and interscholastic programs, youth service programs, and support for pre-K-12 grade educators.
The President also proposes to eliminate funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). In an unusually uncaring comment explaining why this program should be eliminated, the President’s Office of Management and Budget notes that with “costs of almost $6,500 per participant [SCSEP] is not a cost-effective mechanism to provide community service opportunities to older adults.” Clearly OMB misunderstands the purpose of this program, which pairs unemployed low income adults (income of less than $14,850 for family of one) who are 55-years and older, with part-time subsidized employment opportunities serving the community, thereby improving their well-being, and preparing them to re-enter the job market. Last year SCSEP helped older residents in every county of Pennsylvania receive job training which helped successfully place older adults in the workforce. SCSEP is the only federal workforce program designed specifically to assist this vulnerable population and these proposed cuts essentially turn the government’s back on these older Pennsylvanians.
Leaving Pennsylvanians Out in the Cold
The 2017 budget revision proposes cutting $372 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) ahead of the program’s elimination in the 2018 Budget Blueprint. As the Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission recently noted in a letter urging funding for the program, LIHEAP provides assistance for home heating bills to keep approximately 345,000 Pennsylvania residents, keeping them warm and safe during the winter months. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), a program that has also been proposed for elimination, provides energy conservation and weatherization services, which are prioritized to higher risk residents including the elderly, individuals with disabilities, families with children, and high energy users. Pennsylvania funding for these two programs amounted to nearly $220 million last year. Elimination of these programs would put several hundred thousand Pennsylvanians – including our seniors and children — at risk next winter.
Preventing Laid-Off Workers from Accessing Job Training Services
The Dislocated National Reserve helps Pennsylvania provide job training and employment services assistance in response to large, unexpected economic events such as major plant closings or natural disasters. The President has proposed an immediate $100 million reduction to this program. The $13.5 million in Dislocated Worker National Reserve funds that Pennsylvania currently receives is used to provide comprehensive worker training and employment programs for dislocated workers who need assistance to reenter the work force after having been laid off. Recently GE closed a plant in Erie, and laid off nearly 1,500 employees. Funds from the Reserve were used to help pay for education and training costs to assist dislocated workers. In an economy built on high tech skills, Pennsylvania workers are dependent on these types of programs to help transition to other good-paying, middle class jobs when, to no fault of their own, the job they depend on ends.
Killing Jobs in the Manufacturing Sector
The President has proposed cutting the federal appropriation to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership by half this year and then eliminating the program in 2018. The elimination of federal funding for the Partnership would cause the loss of Industrial Resource Center (IRC) assistance to Pennsylvania small and medium-sized manufacturers, and result in a loss of up to 10,350 middle class jobs annually. In particular, the discontinuation of IRC assistance would cost Pennsylvania up to 2,950 direct manufacturing jobs, as well as 7,400 scientific, logistics, service, professional and technical industry jobs dependent on the manufacturing sector. These job losses would in turn result in a loss of $502 million in wages earned by Pennsylvania workers each year.
Cutting Transportation Infrastructure
President Trump’s 2017 reduction calls for a $499 million cut in infrastructure funding to the wildly popular TIGER program. The Budget Blueprint would fully kill the program. Elimination of TIGER grant opportunities will prevent transportation projects proposed by communities and regional planning organizations around the commonwealth. TIGER grants are often the critical leverage enabling struggling communities to begin to reinvent themselves through innovative projects that enhance transportation options, improve quality of life, and create jobs. Well over $130 million has been awarded to Pennsylvania TIGER projects between 2009 and 2015 including:
- Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard, Pittsburgh
- Dilworth Plaza/Concourse Improvements, Philadelphia Center City District & SEPTA
- Central Pennsylvania Rail/Road Expansion, SEDA COG Joint Rail Authority
- Rutherford Intermodal Facility Expansion in Harrisburg, PennDOT
- Carrie Furnace Flyover Bridge, Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County
Harming Rural Communities
The President’s 2017 reductions would cut $82 million from Rural Utility Service and related USDA lines, ahead of nearly $500 million in cuts sought in the Budget Blueprint from the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program. This program is the federal government’s only dedicated resource for financing water and sewer programs in communities of fewer than 10,000 people. In 2016, the program supported 16 projects across Pennsylvania totaling nearly $55 million. For many small and struggling communities, this program has been invaluable to rebuilding the water infrastructure that families and businesses depend on. Many of Pennsylvania’s rural communities could not afford to invest in upgrades to ensure residents have clean water without this program.
Additionally, $95 million in cuts to the Rural Business Cooperative Service program impacts critical job creation that is especially crucial to our rural communities where jobs are often harder to come by and job growth can be limited. In 2016, nine business loan guarantees were provided for $26.4 million which supports business conversion, enlargement, repair, modernization, or development and $733,000 of dedicated business grant funding which supports initiatives like long-term business strategic planning and leadership and entrepreneur training. Both of these funding streams would disappear under the President’s 2017 proposal.
Defunding Coal Communities
Despite his supposed enthusiastic support for coal communities, the President has proposed the elimination of $90 million in additional funding for Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund state grants to three Appalachian states, including Pennsylvania. The $30 million the commonwealth received last year from this program helped fund 14 abandoned mine reclamation projects across the state, each of which was selected for its potential to improve the environment, put out-of-work miners back to work, and lay the groundwork for economic growth for the local community. Preservation of this funding is especially important given the likely movement of legislation in Congress which has the potential to decrease Pennsylvania’s long term share of funding from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund.
Crippling Environmental Protection
Proposed cuts to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency—including a proposed 44% reduction in environmental program grants which are passed through to the state Department of Environmental Protection will have an immediate effect on Pennsylvania’s ability to carry out responsibilities under federal environmental laws which protect public health and the environment, and lead to economic development. The President’s 2017 reduction proposal specifically notes that the 10% cut in the current fiscal year is intended to ease into the transition to the drastic cuts which are proposed in the Budget Blueprint. These cuts would mean fewer inspections at sewage plants, industrial wastewater discharges, construction sites, and at the commonwealth’s 8,500 public water systems, hampering our ability to detect contaminants like lead, water-borne pathogens. Additionally, with cuts to both the EPA Brownfields and Superfund program, Pennsylvania communities would be limited in their ability to clean up contaminated sites and return property to economically productive use.
While the long list of social programs targeted for cuts or elimination in the President’s Budget Blueprint and requested reductions for the remainder of this year may look benign on paper—just numbers in a spreadsheet and an alphabet soup of acronyms—those of us who travel around Pennsylvania and see the need in communities and the benefits these critical programs deliver at the local level know that cuts will have real and immediate consequences for the Pennsylvanians we each represent.
I urge each member of the Pennsylvania delegation to strongly oppose these cuts. Thank you for you for your consideration of this request.