How Trump’s proposed budget could affect agencies, programs in Hawaii

The White House has unveiled President Donald Trump’s proposed $1.15 trillion budget blueprint.

The proposal submitted to Congress Thursday would boost defense spending by $54 billion, but it also contains plans to eliminate or reduce funds to hundreds of programs and agencies.

Click here for more information on the proposed budget.

So what could those cuts mean for Hawaii? We reached out to several agencies, many of which say it’s just too early to tell.

According to the proposal, $2.4 billion would be slashed from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Will that affect Honolulu’s rail project?

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said in a statement: “The good news is the President’s budget would fund all projects such as HART’s which currently have an executed  Full Funding Grant Agreement. The message here is we should work to comply with the terms of the FFGA. We have not requested federal funding for extensions of the rail system. The Honolulu City Council has provided initial funding to begin the planning of the studying of the extensions to the rail system.”

One agency keeping a watchful eye is Hawaii Meals on Wheels, which relies on federal funding.

“It varies from year to year, but in years past, it’s been as high as about 40 percent and as low as 30 percent as well,” said CEO Michelle Cordero-Lee.

In 2016, Hawaii Meals on Wheels served 700 seniors and provided over 97,000 meals. But when asked if seniors could be at risk of losing a meal, the agency said it’s just too early to tell.

“That’s not what I see in our future,” Cordero-Lee said. “We’ve been so supported by the local community here that we think everyone can rally together and our services can continue.”

PBS Hawaii

Hawaii Public Radio also told KHON2 it’s too early to tell, however it’s not too concerned since only six percent of its budget is federally funded.

José Fajardo, HPR’s president and general manager, said in a statement: “Here at Hawaii Public Radio, six percent of our $5.4 million annual budget comes from federal grants distributed through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The remaining 94 percent are raised locally from generous individuals, families, businesses, and foundations who understand the benefit of an independent media source like ours. So while we would certainly feel the pinch if those federal monies were to no longer be available, we are better prepared than many other public media organizations to withstand the loss should the president’s proposed cuts be approved.”

PBS Hawaii says it is concerned and watching the proposal closely as federal funding is key to providing educational programming.

“If the budget proposal were to go through, the biggest impact would be our educational content that we show on our air, so obviously our kids programming would be affected,” said Liberty Peralta, vice president of communications.

“The level of funding that we receive from CPB only amounts to about $1.35 per citizen per year, so it’s actually a very low cost and very high return on investment,” she added. “We consider the money that we receive from CPB as sort of that money that creates a spark so that other organizations from the community pitch in and help out. … That spark sometimes is needed to gather the community together and support public media.”

The East-West Center could also lose money.

The independent non-profit located at the University of Hawaii at Manoa aims to promote better relations among the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

According to the document, the budget “eliminates direct appropriations to small organizations that receive funding from other sources and can continue to operate without direct Federal funds, such as the East-West Center.”

Reports say the center will suffer a funding loss of $16 million.

According to center’s website, the success of the facility is built on both public funding and private donations.

Funding from the U.S. government covers most of the center’s basic operating expenses. Private funding by individuals, private agencies, foundations, corporations and governments throughout the region sustains the center’s research, education, training, scholarship and exchange programs.

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