By Lisa Cirincione, Joining Vision and Action
At JVA, we are anxiously speculating about what will happen to critical federal funding in the coming years. While there is no absolute certainty, I am going to try to summarize what we do know.
First, President Donald Trump has nominated people to serve in his Cabinet who are openly hostile to the agencies that they would lead.
- Rick Perry, who has advocated for eliminating the Department of Energy, would serve as Energy Secretary.
- Betsy DeVos, who has no personal experience in public schools—her children attended private school, she has never served on a public school board, she has no experience with student loans—would be head of the Department of Education.
- Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency 13 times and considers himself a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” has been asked to serve as EPA Administrator.
- Andrew Puzder, who has advocated against labor rules that would protect workers, e.g., mandatory breaks and overtime rules, and is against minimum wage laws, would serve as Labor Secretary.
I could continue, but suffice it to say that all of these nominations point loudly to Trump’s intention to follow through on his promise to shake up “business as usual.” John Hudak, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, says it best: “It really is unprecedented, not just the degree to which some of these nominees despise the mission of the agencies or departments they’re tapped to head, but the sheer number of them.”
Will these leaders try to eliminate longstanding, critical federal grant programs? Fortunately, Trump and his nominees are limited by Congress in their ability to curtail the charter of many agencies, which may delay their attempts to overhaul or eliminate significant programs. We will watch to see if lawsuits are filed to challenge those limitations.
Federal Grant Programs
We will also watch to see which federal grant programs are included in Trump’s budget, which is expected to be passed in March. At JVA, we are very concerned about Trump’s threat to disallow federal funds for sanctuary cities such as Denver, Aurora and Boulder. While there can be some debate about what qualifies a city to be considered a sanctuary city, I think we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that it is any community that has policies that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, e.g., policies that do not require police to inquire about immigration status or cities that refuse to hold suspects in jail solely so ICE agents can pick them up.
If Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General, we can expect to see federal lawsuits against these cities on the grounds that they are violating federal law. The two agencies that are more likely to cut funding to sanctuary cities are the Department of Justice and Homeland Security. The good news is that some programs, such as the Community Oriented Policing Services program, distribute money to cities using a formula set by Congress, so the Attorney General cannot revoke grants without Congress’ approval. But with a Republic-controlled Congress, those formulas could be adjusted.
Another concern is disruption to the federal workforce that runs federal grant programs. The Government Executive reports that nearly 60% of federal employees disapprove of Trump’s transition and 48% felt that Trump would negatively impact their agency’s mission. If these employees choose to leave, there will be little institutional knowledge left about how critical grant programs are intended to work.
All of this information is unsettling, but I will continue to pay close attention to how JVA’s clients could be impacted by the new administration and share that information with you so you can stay focused on doing the important work that you do for our communities.