By Lisa Cirincione, Joining Vision and Action

More glimpses, but nothing concrete.

Despite hopes that President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress on February 28, 2017, would illuminate what to expect from the federal budget, we still have very little clarity. The big, concerning thing that we did hear the president say before his speech is that he wants to increase military funding by $54 billion and lift the sequester for defense spending (remember that term!). If Congress approves that request, and Congress is actually serious about trying to cut federal spending and reduce the national debt, that increase will need to be offset by cuts to other departments. And, some of those departments are off limits for cuts—President Trump has said that cuts should not come from veterans’ programs, law enforcement or entitlement programs, the biggest drivers of federal spending.

The speculation is that nearly every federal agency/department will see a cut—The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein suggested that each domestically focused agency would see a 10% cut in its budget. My friends, that is significant and will have a devastating impact on discretionary grant programs. Massive layoffs are also anticipated among federal workers. And, as I’ve blogged about before, several agencies would be eliminated entirely, e.g., the National Endowment for the Arts, the Legal Services Corporation, the Corporation for National and Community Service, etc.

JVA perspective.

President Trump’s speech to Congress was detail-free, but it further underscored his vision for America, which JVA believes will result in fewer federal grant competitions for critical safety net programs. We are very concerned about how the federal budget will impact the important work of our clients, so this is our speculation about what grant programs are likely to exist under this new administration.

So, what federal grant money is likely to be available, based on the priorities that President Trump talked about in his speech to Congress?

The following issues seem important to the President, so I expect that grant competitions will continue to exist for work in these areas:

  • Veterans
  • Police
  • Gang intervention
  • Violence prevention
  • Substance use treatment
  • Early childhood education
  • Job creation in construction, manufacturing to support infrastructure development

So, what issues did President Trump leave unmentioned?

  • Climate change. He only briefly mentioned that the U.S. should have clean air and clean water. The Environmental Protection Agency is already preparing for massive cuts, and several executive orders have been signed that will eliminate regulations that protect animals, water and air.
  • ACA. The President once again called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but he offered no tangible details on how it would be replaced other than with private health savings accounts and tax credits.
  • K–12 education. The president reiterated his commitment to school choice, so policies that allow federal money to follow students to the school of their parents’ choice seems likely. While the President has vowed to eliminate Common Core, he did not mention it in his speech.
  • Arts. President Trump did not give any indication that federal money should be used to support the arts.
  • Programs for individuals with disabilities. This population does not seem to be on the radar for President Trump.

I wish that the speech had provided a more concrete picture of what to expect in terms of federal grant dollars, but once again, all we are getting is rhetoric and visionary statements with no actual plans for how President Trump will deliver on those values. It seems that Congress is going to have to make those decisions, and until then, we continue to wait…