Proposed federal budget cuts raise alarms with UCHRA and UCDD
by Bobby Lee McCulley | April 13, 2017 7:00 am
Budget cuts recently proposed by the federal government have caused numerous residents in the Upper Cumberland to contact area and local officials and community leaders to express their concerns.
Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, which serves a 14-county region that includes White County, recently issued a press release outlining programs that would be affected.
UCHRA was established in 1973 by the Tennessee General Assembly to be the delivery system for human resources in these designated counties. Programs that are offered include job training, transportation, elderly in-home services, nutrition services, and youth residential services.
According to the UCHRA, some programs that are slated for elimination under the proposed federal budget include low-income home energy assistance program that helped 14,454 people last year. Other programs that have been vital to the elderly and low income that are proposed to be eliminated include the Social Service Block Grant, which assisted 144 people last year, and weatherization services that assisted 49 households last year.
Another program that UCHRA states may be eliminated is the Community Service Block Grant, which helped 18,638 people last year. This grant provides significant funding to commodities distribution services, Meals on Wheels of the Cumberlands, and the Star Program.
Additionally, there are several other programs that may be eliminated under the proposed federal budget. Some cuts, according to the UCHRA press release, include the Residential Educational Programs, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and potentially Head Start
UCHRA Executive Director Luke Collins stated, “ These programs are vital to taking care of the people in the Upper Cumberland who are in the most need of help. The services that are proposed to be cut are the programs that the elderly most desperately need.”
Meals on Wheels was one particular program that Collins stated would receive deeps cuts and would negatively impact the elderly across the Upper Cumberland, including White County.
“Christians are not supposed to act like this,” he said. “We are supposed to take care of those in need especially the elderly.”
Collins stated if residents are concerned and want to see the programs protected, they are encouraged to contact their U.S senators and U.S. representatives. White Countians should contact Senator Lamar Alexander (202) 224-4944; Senator Bob Corker (202) 224-3344; and Representative Diane Black (202) 225-4231.
The Expositor also reached out to the Upper Cumberland Development District about the president’s proposed federal budget.
“We certainly were concerned when the president’s budget was released,” said Mark Farley, UCDD executive director.
Farley stated the UCDD has met one-on-one with each of the field staffs for the congressmen and senators who serve the Upper Cumberland. Upper Cumberland Development District representatives also traveled to Washington D.C to meet directly with the region’s elected officials.
Some programs the UCDD has expressed concerns for include the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP), which is a non-biased service that provides counsel to seniors on Medicare Part-D choices. Another program mentioned that may face cuts or complete elimination is the Appalachian Regional Commission, which would affect White County. This program provides funding for various job-creating projects and community development projects.
Other areas of concerns that were expressed by Farley included the Community Development Block Grant and the Economic Development Administration. These federal programs provide needed funds to assist local governments in expanding water lines, sewer lines, infrastructure projects to industrial sites, and community development projects such as the new ambulance building expansion project, which have recently helped White County.
“I understand the need to constrain the growth of any budget, whether it is on the local, state or federal level,” stated Farley. “The programs we are most concerned about invest money into the region so that we can continue to grow our economy.”
According to Collins and Farley, with the aging population, many of these programs are vital for communities like White County. At this time, 5,604 adults in White County are over the age of 65. By 2030, there will be a 57 percent increase in the population that’s over 65 in White County. It is estimated there will be 8,779 people over 65, which will amount to 29 percent of White County’s population.
Programs like SHIP saved Medicare beneficiaries $896,207 in the Upper Cumberland alone, in 2016. Statewide, Medicare beneficiaries saved $3,581,939.76, in 2016. According to Sarah Cunningham, the legislative and communications coordinator for UCDD, “ These statistics really drive home why programs like SHIP are so important to our region.”