“We’re concerned about a number of the budget proposals and we’re here to put a voice to those concerns and a voice to the numbers that we hear on the national news to illustrate the fact that his impacts real people on the ground and often impacts the most vulnerable among us,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi at a press conference at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services’ shelter on Fordem Avenue Thursday afternoon.

Parisi was joined by a number of community leaders at the headquarters of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), a local agency that provides help to victims of domestic abuse that received funding from a community development initiative that President Trump is looking to eliminate.

“We’re here today to talk about the potential impacts of the budget that has been put forward by President Trump,” Parisi said, opening up the press conference. “Specifically, we’re going to talk about the proposal cuts to the CDBG program.

Parisi said that since 2011, Dane County has allocated $7 million in federal funds to promote economic development and affordable housing under what’s known as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. “The CDBG fund is crucial to our efforts to help people to succeed, to provide affordable housing, to get businesses off the ground and creating jobs,” Parisi says. “President Trump has talked a lot about wanting to make American great again, the way that you make America great again is by giving them the opportunity to succeed, not pulling the resources out from underneath them that help people with job creation and help people with affordable housing.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi speaks at a press conference on the federal budget March 23 at DAIS.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi speaks at a press conference on the federal budget March 23 at DAIS.

The new DAIS facility that was hosting the press conference was built, in part, with funds from CDBG.

“The CDBG cuts that are proposed [by Trump] are to help offset the proposed increases in defense spending,” Parisi says. “And I think most of us here today are much more concerned about defending women and children, for whom DAIS is literally the choice between life and death.”

DAIS Executive Director Shannon Barry said that when you talk about these kinds of cuts that it’s important that people talk about the broad ways that it can directly impact people in our community. “Since we’ve opened this building, we have provided safe shelter for over 500 women and children and men every single year,” Barry said of the DAIS offices opened in August of 2014. “When you look at those numbers, that’s close to 1,500 people that we’ve been able to provide shelter to. Added to that are all of the other various programs that are in this building. When we’re looking at the breadth of these services, it’s really having a huge impact on Dane County.”

Parisi said that recently the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County were able to open up a new building as direct result of CDBG funding. Latino Chamber President Mayra Medrano and Latino Chamber Executive Director Jessica Cavazos were at the press conference on behalf of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. Medrano said that cuts to CDBG will have detrimental effects in the ability for the Latino Chamber to meet its mission.

Latino Chamber President Mayra Medrano (left) and Latino Chamber Executive Director Jessica Cavazos
Latino Chamber President Mayra Medrano (left) and Latino Chamber Executive Director Jessica Cavazos

“Through CDBG-Dane County funds, we were able to open our first Emerging Business Development Center to which we provide dual-language technical assistance, access to capital, and resources that foster economic prosperity. Without funds from CDBG, we will be unable to expand our services within the City of Madison and outlying communities,” Medrano told Madison365. “An investment in sustaining a vital business environment for Latino businesses translates to a positive growth to our business community. It will be difficult to remain The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County without funds from CDBG.”

Numerous other local organizations like Movin’ Out, Habitat for Humanity, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, YWCA, and the Badger Prairie Needs Network have all benefited from the CDBG funding.

Since 2011, Dane County has assisted 116 businesses, 6408 low-income citizens, and 3480 people with a public service with CDBG funds. Additionally, Dane County has helped 177 households receive repair, 48 households have received assistance to purchase affordable housing, 21 units of affordable owner-occupied housing have been created, 19 affordable rental housing units have been created, and 46 rental housing units have been rehabbed.

“The challenge that we face is that we are already under pretty tight spending constraints. We don’t have any new sources of revenue to turn to,” Parisi said. “Every year, we have had cuts on the state level that we’ve had to backfill with County tax dollars but you can only do that to a certain extent. Now, if you couple that with what’s happening at the federal level, we’re not going to have anywhere to turn. So we will see a reduction in services. How do you plug a quarter of a million dollar gap in emergency management when it just disappears over night because of the federal budget?

In recent days Dane County was notified that cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could result in all Wisconsin counties losing over $4 million in Emergency Management Planning Grant funds. Dane County’s share of this cut would be nearly a quarter of a million dollars, hurting the county’s ability to coordinate disaster preparedness and response efforts.

“We’re voicing our concern now because these cuts will have real-life impacts on our quality of life and really not only the access to opportunity for folks looking to get ahead but just survival for a lot of folks who are scraping to get by,” Parisi said.