TEXAS VIEW: Congress must re-examine budgetTHE POINT — Proposed cuts would hurt the poorest of the poor in Texas.

We fully recognize that federal budget proposals come with a fair amount of bluster and politicking and posturing from all sides. Lawmakers with opposing political views, for instance, might be keen to highlight proposed cuts that will tug at our hearts, and they don’t always point out spending increases that might benefit their districts, so as to not bring attention to it.
With that said, regardless of party affiliation or allegiance, we believe that one would be hard pressed not to agree that President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts of at least $45 million in federal funding to Hidalgo County will hurt our county, and our Rio Grande Valley region, overall.
Specifically, as Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia told us, it will hurt “the poorest of the poor.”
We thank U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee for tallying Trump’s proposal cuts to date. So far, it appears the new president’s budget plan would slash Community Development Block Grants by $10.6 million in Hidalgo County, including $1.4 million in these grants to McAllen; $1.1 million to Pharr; $904,240 to Mission and $7.2 million to other parts of the county. These grants help cities and rural areas provide decent, affordable housing for low-income residents and offer them work-study programs.
Trump also wants to cut by $4 million energy assistance programs for the elderly and low-income residents that help them pay utility bills and weatherize homes. And he wants to end $1.8 million in Community Service Block Grants that provide local emergency food and job programs.
Eliminating these two grants, if approved by Congress, would in essence shut down the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency, which administers these grants, its executive director, Jaime Longoria, told us The agency, with 33 employees helped 42,821 people through these grants last year alone, Longoria told us.
“It would seriously eliminate all the county’s efforts to address poverty in Hidalgo County from a governmental standpoint,” he said.
It’s not often that Judge Garcia is speechless but we found him so on March 24 after he learned of the plan.
“It would be terrible for our area,” said Garcia. “I mean, good God. It seems the people who are being targeted are the elderly and the poor.”
The judge’s candor punctuated what was a ripple audibly heard throughout the county as various nonprofit organizations and government agencies learned how the proposed 2018 fiscal budget could affect them, if passed as is.
“These cuts are not something that any of us, as nonprofi t organizations or local governments, can take over. Everything that we do supplements and complements the programs already in existence,” Thelma Garza, president of the United Way of South Texas, told us.
Nearly half a million dollars in proposed cuts to emergency food and shelter programs would greatly affect the United Way, as well as Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, the Salvation Army and the RGV Food Bank, she said.
Garza also frets about monies proposed to be cut to transportation grants, which help to ferry around senior citizens and disabled residents, taking them to doctors’ visits and helping them to get preventative care.
“It’s so they can ride buses free and can get to medical appointments so they stay healthy and don’t end up in ERs,” she said.
Missed doctor visits could impact physicians and drive up care costs if patients ultimately suffer worsening conditions.
Overall, in studying the preliminary numbers provided to us by Cuellar’s office, we can’t help but find it would be unfair to those of us who have the least and need the most help.
We therefore call upon Congress to dig deep and examine these programs and recognize their virtue and the people they help locally. And we hope those lawmakers will continue to keep us abreast and will push back so that the majority of these funds will not be eliminated to our area.