Columbia man says Trump budget could leave him homeless

David Robinson said he regularly turns a federal utility-assistance program due to his limited income. The program is one service President Donald Trump's budget could defund. (Garrett Bergquist)

A Columbia resident on Friday said President Donald Trump's proposal to end an assistance program could jeopardize his eligibility for other forms of help.

David Robinson receives Social Security disability payments and said he has trouble making ends meet. As a result, he turns to the Low-Income Home Energy Assitance Program, or LIHEAP, about 4 to 5 times a year so he can pay his utility bills. LIHEAP is one of the programs on the chopping block under President Donald Trump's proposed budget, released Thursday. Robinson said if LIHEAP is cut, his only other option would be a lottery-based state program.

"If I can't have my utilities on, I may not be able to have what assistance I get on rent," he said.

Trump's budget includes cuts for every major department except the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans' Affairs. This includes a nearly 18 percent cut for the Department of Health and Human Services. LIHEAP and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program would be eliminated as part of those cuts. Angela Hirsch, the chief program officer for Central Missouri Community Action, said ending those grants would effectively put CMCA out of business.

"As those services dwindle or are eliminated, you're going to see a huge impact on the community," she said.

Hirsch said more than 12,000 people in CMCA's eight-county service area made use of a CSBG-funded program during the 2016 federal budget year. Those programs include job training, transportation, childcare and family-development services. More than 6,700 families used the LIHEAP utility-assistance program Robinson uses. Hirsch said Trump's budget also would eliminate a home-weatherization program that 133 homes in mid-Missouri used last year.

Trump's Office of Management and Budget has said LIHEAP and CSBG are low-impact programs that duplicate other federal programs. Hirsch dismissed those criticisms, saying CMCA always checks to make sure its services aren't being duplicated elsewhere.

Robinson said eliminating programs such as these would make the streets less safe.

"It could bring people to possibly commit criminal behavior to make ends meet," he said.

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