BY JAMES FARRELL
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) expressed concerns about President Donald Trump’s federal budget on Friday, arguing that proposed cuts would gravely impact Queens constituents.
Meng disapproved of cuts to the national Institute of Health and New York City Housing Authority as well as Community Development Block Grants, which fund programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, an initiative to help low-income and senior citizens pay their heating costs.
“Queens will seriously feel the effects of this president’s proposed budget, with many of these cuts trickling down to services, projects and programs that our borough residents depend on,” Meng said.
Meng gathered leaders from several Queens-based non-profits for a roundtable discussion in her Flushing office to outline how these potential cuts could affect their services.
“Our work used to be about fighting poverty,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation. “Now, it’s about fighting our leaders who punish people who are poor.”
The Asian American Federation funds nearly 70 Asian-serving member agencies that provide health, education, economic development and other social services to vulnerable members of the Asian American community.
She cited data from her own organization and argued that despite being one of the fastest growing populations in New York City, the Asian American community receives only 1.4 percent of all city contracts.
“What that means [is] if the budget gets passed, I’m assuming that our share is going to be even smaller,” she said.
Tova Klein, of SelfHelp Community Services— a non-profit that provides seniors with housing, centers for activity and other services— said that the organization houses 1,400 seniors in subsidized housing. But she fears that proposed cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development could threaten that funding.
Cuts to the National Institute of Health (NIH) could affect the work of the South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS), which, among other things, advocates for health care access in the South Asian community. According to SACSS Director of Health Services Rehan Mehmood, SACSS is currently working on increasing health care access and awareness for New York City taxi cab drivers, who face unique health problems, given the stress of city driving and long hours without physical exercise.
“With the funding from NIH, we have been working on educating taxi cab drivers on how to maintain their health, develop healthy eating habits,” Mehmood said.
Those NIH cuts could also impact important research, said Israel Rocha, of NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst.
“You have local effects immediately, but you also have larger effects, long-term in the future, by not being able to bring drugs to market and not being able to develop new cures,” he said.
Other services are also threatened by cuts, advocates warned. The Anti-Violence Project, which supports LGBTQ victims of domestic and other types of violence, receives funding from several offices that could see cuts in the proposed budget, including the Office of Violence Against Women, according to Director of Community Organizing Shelby Chestnut. And according to David Strauss, of the Queens Museum, the institution could lose more than $400,000 in funding for various programs.
Alfonso Lopez, a representative from the New York City Office of Federal Affairs, explained that while the proposed budget was to be interpreted as a “guidepost,” it demonstrated Trump’s priorities and threatened critical city programs.
Public safety was Lopez’s top concern. He cited a $667 million cut to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the grants it supports, such as the Homeland Security Grant Program, which assists the city’s Police Department in its security efforts. That funding has gone toward Vapor Wake dogs, which detect body-worn explosives, and terrorism officers, who monitor heavily-attended events, such as parades.
Meng said that she hoped to work with Republicans, especially in New York State, to make changes to the budget. And as a newly appointed member of the House’s Appropriations Committee—in charge of allotting funding—she vowed to make stopping the current proposal her “top priority.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.