Federal Cuts Could Cost Cambridge $1 Million

Proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program now being debated in Congress could cost Cambridge more than $1 million, according to city officials.

"Cambridge now gets $4.2 million and overall allotment to block grants would be cut by 28 percent," said Francis H. Duehay, a city councillor.

The city uses the block grant money to supplement many different human services, including a meals program for the homeless, a food bank, state sponsored child care, abused spoused programs, drug prevention programs and affordable housing, according to Duehay.

"You wouldn't know exactly which programs would be cut, but it is very likely that since the majority of the money goes to affordable housing and human services programs, that the majority of [the cuts] would be in those areas," Duehay said. "It's quite true that with rent control and the other programs that are threatened, more than half of the housing units [in Cambridge] are threatened."

In a recent speech at the Institute of Politics, Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 also said the cuts would hit the city hard, especially in the area of housing.

"We will have to re-examine the feasibility of maintaining our current network of human services. We've been investing in keeping families in the city," Reeves said. "This cut in the CDBG will lead to a drop in affordable housing."

Reeves also warned that deep cuts in Cambridge's budget could force the city to renew its efforts to tax the property owned by universities in Cambridge, calling them "the real bases of wealth in their community."

Currently, thousands of families are on the housing authority's waiting list.

Michael H. Turk of the Cambridge Tenants Union said federal cuts to housing puts the "majority of residents at risk."

"At the very time that the broad protection provided for many tenants thorough rent control has been taken away, the cuts at the federal level have jeopardized the tenants in the city who are either in expiring projects or subsidized projects or public housing," Turk said. "The protections that existed for low and moderate income tenants and moderate to middle income tenants are threatened to such a degree so that all those tenants would not be able to stay in Cambridge."

Turk warned that the cuts could eventuallychange the character of the city.

"I think the main thrust would turn Cambridgeinto an upper-income enclave," he said. "Withoutthe broad protection in the city, they [lowerincome tenants] will likely be replaced by morewell-to-do house-holds."

At a meeting between Governor William F. Weld'66 and the Local Government Advisory Committeeearlier this month, Duehay made a presentationurging Weld to fight the cuts to the CDBG.

"We want to make sure he understood what citiesdo with the money. We're going to be working veryhard to try to bring the reality of budget cuts tothe attention of Congress and our Republicangovernor," Duehay said.

"I was urging him [Weld] to intervene with theRepublican Congress to make sure these funds weresustained."

Duehay also stresses the value of the CDBG,which was begun under Nixon, as a example of ablock grant that is operating successfully in atime when Congress is considering turning manyprograms into block grants.

"If we go into block grants for other purposes,we wanted to make sure he realized it wasimportant for the local government to work withthe state," he said. "We were pointing out thathere's a block grant that's working.

"The flexibility is a model for block grants,"he added. "It's a model program--don't destroyit.