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Congressman Capuano's
E-UPDATE
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
7th Congressional District of Massachusetts


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March 10, 2017

Community Meetings

Thanks to everyone who joined us in Somerville Monday night for our community meeting. We had great turnout and lots of detailed questions. There are three more coming up, including a recently scheduled event in Mattapan. Details are below:

  • Monday April 10th
    6:30 – 8:00 PM
    Mildred Avenue Community Center auditorium
    5 Mildred Avenue, Mattapan
  • Wednesday April 12th
    7:00 – 8:30 PM
    Stetson Hall
    6 S. Main Street, Randolph
  • Thursday April 13th
    6-7:30 PM
    East Boston High School auditorium
    86 White Street, East Boston

As additional meetings are added we will share the details with you. Hope to see you at one of them. If you’d like, you can RSVP on Facebook or you can watch my Somerville community meeting via Facebook Live.

The Trump Budget

Yesterday we all got our first official look at the Trump Administration’s budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018. In essence, officials have taken all of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and applied it to the federal budget.

Entitled “America First”, the defense budget grows by $54 billion while non-defense programming is slashed by the same amount. This includes eliminating entire programs and whole departments. The budget contains funding to begin constructing the wall along the Mexican border, despite Trump’s repeated assertions that Mexico would pay for it. There is money to increase border patrol, build more detention facilities and beef up U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon all got big budget boosts.

So, what departments and programs will experience reduced funds? Where do I begin? The theme of “America First” is certainly an ironic one when we consider all the domestic programming that is decimated under this budget blueprint. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget is slashed by 18% while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget is cut by 30%. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget is cut by 18%. So much is at stake. Public health, scientific research, clean air and water, the list is long. The EPA alone will experience a 20% reduction in staff under this budget.

Many federal programs would be eliminated. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) disappear with this budget. CDBG money is one of the examples of federal money that can be found throughout communities. It can be used to create or renovate a neighborhood park, help a small business improve its storefront, support an affordable housing initiative, plant trees, rebuild sidewalks and so much more. It also supports the Meals on Wheels program, which provides healthy meals for qualified seniors. This particular program has been featured in news coverage about the budget, with Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney arguing it’s not a federal program. If federal money is used to pay for it, then it’s a federal program. Period.

If federal funding for the initiatives described above disappear, many communities will have difficulty sustaining them. The money has to come from somewhere.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is especially important in New England with our long winters, older housing stock and high heating costs. It has helped many families get through a difficult winter by providing home heating assistance. You may not realize, however, that the LIHEAP program also helps qualified families in warmer climates. It’s not just for home heating. An Alabama summer can be dangerous to some folks who can’t afford to use their air conditioner. Trump’s budget doesn’t just reduce funding, it eliminates the program entirely.

Despite lofty promises of a massive infrastructure plan, the Trump budget reduces Department of Transportation funding by 13%. It restricts the Federal Transit Authority’s (FTA) Capital Investment Program, also known as New Starts. Only projects that already have full funding grant agreements will get money. Fortunately, the Green Line Extension (GLX) has a full funding grant agreement. Moving forward, all projects like this will have to be supported with state and local funds. Without federal support, many of these projects will no longer be possible. The budget also eliminates the TIGER grant. In 2014, Massachusetts won a TIGER grant to modernize Ruggles Station.

Other agencies and programs that are eliminated in Trump’s budget include the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, legal aid for the poor, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Home Weatherization Assistance Program and the Minority Business and Development Agency. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is gone too. That program supports youth summer programming as well as before and after school care. Many working parents rely on it for their children.

It really is a heartless and painful budget proposal. All of the eliminated programs represent jobs that will be lost. Those lost wages will hurt families and impact local economies. State and local governments cannot possibly cover the funding lost with this budget. We are at the beginning of a long process but the first chapter is not promising.

Federal Money

With the release of President Trump’s first budget, I thought it was a good time to offer a little perspective on how federal money makes an impact on the local level. Most people simply don’t know where the money for various local, state or federal programs really comes from. Many may think that program funding comes from the level of government cutting the check or the agency making a public announcement and organizing the ribbon cutting.

In fact, the three levels of government often work together to fund various initiatives. For example, local government is responsible for local schools and pays most of the costs associated with them – but the state government provides billions of dollars in state aid for local education and the federal government largely finances school related programs like the National School Lunch Program. All three levels of government provide significant funds for Special Needs Education.

Under normal circumstances, it’s not really necessary for the general public to be familiar with the details behind funding because the various levels of government work cooperatively together. However, we are not experiencing normal circumstances. As you are well aware, the federal government is now controlled by people who have long pledged to slash domestic spending. It is clear this will impact federal programs related to health care and housing. What may not be so clear is the impact that federal cuts may have on STATE and LOCAL programs.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center recently published a thoughtful 12-page report on the amounts of federal funds that pass through the state budget.

In brief, it shows that 1 in every 4 dollars (25%) appropriated through the state budget comes from federal funds, this amount totals $11,000,000,000!!!! This does NOT count:

  • The billions of federal dollars that flow directly to individuals through Social Security, National Institutes of Health grants, and college aid like Pell Grants;
  • The billions of federal dollars that go directly to Massachusetts cities and towns through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Brownfield Grants, and many other programs, or
  • The billions of federal dollars that go directly to private contractors and developers for transportation or construction projects.

As you can see, if federal spending is cut, many state and local programs we have come to take for granted are in jeopardy. Some of these include:

  • School Lunch Program
  • Special Needs Assistance
  • Child Care programs like Head Start
  • Early Education
  • Nursing Homes
  • Veterans Nursing Care (eg – Chelsea Home)
  • Home Heating Assistance
  • County Sheriff Assistance
  • Section 8 Housing
  • Transportation funds to both build and repair infrastructure (that fund private contractors)

The report lists many of the programs, though not all, that could be in jeopardy. While it is true that most government spending is fungible, state and local governments would still have to raise taxes or find cuts somewhere else to keep a program running. I do not provide this list to scare anyone – merely to allow you to connect your own dots. Not all government spending is “waste, fraud, and abuse”. Lots of government programs rely on more than one level of funding. Much of it is like a sweater — you can pull a single thread, but beware of how it unravels the rest of the sweater.

57 Days In, What Will This List Look Like When We Reach 100?

America wanted strength, respect, economic stability, and confident leadership. This is what we have so far:

  • Russian interference with American elections
  • Financial Conflicts of interest with Russian Oligarchs
  • Financial Conflicts of Interest with Turkish government
  • Major personal profits garnered from a Chinese government bank
  • Controversial Health Care bill under debate
  • Widespread attempt by the White House to undermine the credibility of a government organization (CBO) headed by a Republican appointee
  • An illegal travel ban targeting one religion – followed by an illegal second travel ban targeting that same religion
  • An unsubstantiated allegation that the prior President wire-tapped the incoming President’s phones
  • A full blown FBI investigation into the wire-tapping allegations
  • The mysterious release of two pages of an old tax return – even the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter to whom the pages were leaked has suggested the pages may have been leaked by the White House itself in order to deflect attention away from all the above.
  • Many actions by various agencies to turn the clock back, such as making it easier for people with medically diagnosed cases of mental illness to get a gun, allowing employers to hide violations of worker safety laws, allowing mining companies to pollute drinking water. Most of these actions have occurred without much fanfare.

All this has happened and the new administration has been in office for 57 days. I guess we have to hope this is intentional distraction of the American public and not incompetence or the “new normal”.

An Update about Elections Around the World

On March 15th the Netherlands elected their Parliament and Dutch voters gave a majority to Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The far-right People’s Party, which holds openly anti-immigrant positions and supports exiting the European Union (EU) suffered a setback. Their party leader, Geert Wilders, describes himself as a “Dutch Trump”. While the People’s Party did gain seats, it was far less than expected. The Netherlands is a multi-party democracy with 13 parties represented in the new Parliament and it is expected that Prime Minister Rutte will be able to form a governing coalition without Mr. Wilders.

We will see what happens in France when on April 23rd, the first round of elections to choose a new President will be held.

How Many Ways Can the House Make it Easier to Buy a Gun?

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act. Under current law the Veterans Administration (VA) must provide the names of veterans who have been classified as “mentally incompetent” and cannot handle their own financial affairs to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The law allows anyone in those circumstances to challenge the reporting to the NICS with a mental health professional of their choosing. They can also initiate a challenge at any time with new evidence. H.R. 1181 requires the VA to obtain a court determination before a veteran’s name can be sent to the NICS. The problem with this is that H.R. 1181 does not provide funding or a framework for this new court process, which currently does not exist. The legislation is also retroactive, which means that 170,000 people already on the NICS list would be automatically removed, making it easier for them to buy a gun.

I voted NO. H.R. 1181 passed and will the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

228

2

0

6

DEMOCRAT

12

173

0

8

TOTAL

240

175

0

14

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Bipartisanship, Still Possible

On Friday the House considered H.R. 1367, To Improve the Authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs and for other purposes. This legislation makes it easier for the VA to hire qualified health care professionals for over 40,000 currently vacant jobs. It directs the VA to operate a database listing all vacant positions and all qualified individuals who have applied for jobs but have not been hired. It will allow the VA to match applicants with jobs that they are qualified for but may not have initially sought. H.R. 1367 also creates an Executive Management Fellowship Program to give VA employees the opportunity to take a fellowship in the private sector and private sector employees the opportunity to work with the VA. This would give current employees access to additional training and create a pool of qualified private sector employees whose skills could be utilized at the VA as needed. I voted YES. H.R. 1367 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

232

0

0

4

DEMOCRAT

180

0

0

13

TOTAL

412

0

0

17

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Behind the Curtain

Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.

  1. On March 2, 2017 we learned that the Trump Administration skipped ethics training provided to cabinet nominees and other political appointees. In January, the General Services Administration (GSA) contacted the company conducting past training sessions to inform them their services were no longer needed. Ethics training may have prevented some of the missteps we have seen from the Administration such as asking agencies for lists of staffers working on programs they don’t like or promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from the White House briefing room. It certainly looks like ethics is not a priority for this Administration. Congressional staffers are required to take ethics training every year — it doesn’t take long.
  2. On March 10, 2017 the Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew a Federal Register notice on a proposal to require shelters, housing complexes and other HUD funded facilities to post notices that they are open to all individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. This Administration action sends the troubling message that equal access is not a priority.
  3. On March 16, 2017 the Department of Education reversed a directive preventing student loan collectors from charging additional fees on borrowers who default but then enter into a repayment agreement within a specific timeframe. Now loan collectors may charge new fees the moment a borrower defaults regardless of efforts to negotiate repayment. The fees alone can soar into the thousands of dollars for a loan of $15,000.
  4. H.R. 1181 as described above

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday March 20th. It is possible that the House will consider the Republicans’ health care bill, although there is significant opposition to it within their own party.

Mike


Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Ethics
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

P.S. I welcome your feedback on our e-Updates. Please let me and my staff know what you think of this service by e-mailing our office.


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Roxbury Community College Campus Library, Room 211, Boston
Stetson Hall Room 124, 6 South Main Street, Randolph

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DC Office Phone:

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