The Equity Factor

Five Ways the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Could Affect Cities

An approximation of the spending bill. Via Flickr

The House passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill by an overwhelming vote of 359-67 on Wednesday, seeking to avert a federal shutdown like the one that ticked so many people off last October. The bill, which is now headed to the Senate, reverses course on cuts to military pensions and maintains financing for Obamacare, something that Republicans had in their crosshairs.

Conservatives decided they didn’t want to deal with another shutdown this time around, so they’ve reached an agreement that should keep the government open, at least until October 1. Progress!

Buried deep in the 1,582-page doorstop bill, which is reportedly not made of Monopoly money, were both glaring omissions in funding for community development and ramped up spending for programs that should help low-income youth. We picked out the bill’s five most important cuts and increases for cities:

  • Vice President Joe Biden’s Next Generation High-Speed Rail — seriously, that’s what it’s called — is back on the shelf. A pet project of Biden’s, who never stops talking about his daily Amtrak commute from Delaware during his Senate days, this provision rescinds funding for high-speed rail. This is a huge loss for transit upgrades and expansions that would not only create construction jobs, but make jobs in other cities more accessible.
  • Head Start, the early childhood education program that suffered cuts during the shutdown and sequester, will see a $612 million increase in funding for a grand total budget of $8.6 billion. “The proposed spending would also restore cuts to the Head Start program that were caused by sequestration, providing critical early education to our nation’s children and supporting the thousands of teachers, teacher assistants, and other staff,” Dorie Nolt, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, wrote in an email.
  • President Obama’s preschool development grant program, which he announced in April as a $750 million initiative, is in danger. It’s a huge, understated loss for the president, who envisioned the program as a way to afford states the ability to build high-quality preschools.
  • Rent supplements, under section 101 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 and section 236 of the National Housing Act, face a $3.5 million cut. This would deliver a blow to people who live in privately owned apartments but who struggle to pay the rent each month.

Now, there are plenty of other measures in the spending bill that will have an effect in cities, from small-business loans to affordable housing. And, if HUD ever returns our calls, we’ll share its answers. If you happened to read through the bill on your commute this morning — which: impressive! — and want to share items you feel are important for urban policy and life in cities, drop them in the comments.

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Bill Bradley is based in Brooklyn. His writing has appeared in The Daily, Bloomberg Businessweek, GQ.com and Vanity Fair, among others. Follow him on Twitter @billbradley3.

Tags: washington, d.c., d.c., equity factor, politics, high-speed rail, hud, congress, senate, head start, early childhood education