Before there were 280 characters in a tweet, before FBI Director James Comey was fired, and before Robert Mueller was appointed the special counsel, Meals on Wheels seemed like the most egregious outrage.
More specifically, there was widespread indignation at Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s call to cut Community Development Block Grants that fund the senior assistance program. “The CDBGs have been identified as programs since I believe the first, actually the second Bush administration,” Mulvaney told reporters, “as ones that were just not showing any results.”
But what the administration condemned in March, they now seek to employ in November. Mulvaney has asked Congress for $12 billion in these grants to help with disaster relief.
“The Administration also proposes a $12.0 billion appropriation for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program focused on flood mitigation projects,” Mulvaney wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan in a Nov. 17 letter, “which would be awarded competitively to States and Territories that had more than one flood-related major disaster declaration in the past four years.”
Granted, Puerto Rico and South Atlantic states have been pummeled repeatedly by what amounts to a street gang of tropical storms. Disaster relief is absolutely necessary. To that end, Congress has authorized and the president has spent $35.8 billion on recovery efforts to repair more than $50 billion in damage.
But while more money is needed, more accountability is necessary than what’s provided with CDBGs. Earlier this year, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson echoed Mulvaney when he questioned whether or not the block grants have been “the most effective.” Even Politico agreed, noting that the money flows to disadvantaged communities as much as wealthy neighborhoods. A more succinct Reason piece concluded that lack of supervision ensures the program is “chock full of cronyism and corruption.”
There are other, more accountable ways to deliver aid. For instance, the House Disaster Recovery Reform Act includes some carrot and stick measures to encourage states to spend the cash on recovery and specific preventive steps.
Eventually, something will get to the president’s desk and Mulvaney’s complaints about block grants will more than likely be forgotten.