Athens County Commissioners Fear Trump Budget Cuts

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Athens County Commissioners Office on 15 S. Court Street

President Donald Trump is proposing to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program from his 2017 federal budget proposal. This federal program has provided federal funding to counties with financial needs since 1974. The possible loss of the funding has community leaders worried about how they will fund projects in Athens County without the $135,000 they receive from the grant every year.

Street in Athens that will not be repaired if the grant is cut

The CDBG is typically used to upgrade and improve the infrastructure in low or moderate income communities. The projects usually include upgrades to water and sewer systems, streets, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, bridges, ADA accessibility, community centers, fire protection facilities and more.

The Athens County Commission typically decides where and how the money is distributed.

Commissioner Chris Chmiel said he is concerned a cut in these funds will drastically affect Athens County.

“Infrastructure is not cheap, and so why are you going to target the least capable communities by eliminating these block grant funds?” he said.

Lena Osborne, the Community Development Coordinator at Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, often helps decide where the CDBG money goes. This year, she is still waiting on a notice saying they are receiving the funding. By this time every year, they have already been informed of the amount of grant money they will receive.

“Our state representative has even indicated that there are some delays in Washington and they haven’t even received at the state level, the office of community development, what funding is available.” she said. “We are assuming it is status quo and we will receive the same formula allocation as we have in previous years.”

Osborne said without the funding, projects will not be able to be done at all, as they depend on the money to complete projects like roadway and sidewalk upgrades.

Chmiel said he will be surprised if the county does not receive the funding because it is very much a need for Southeast Ohio counties.