Secretary Carson Testifies on Administration’s FY 2021 Budget Request in Senate Subcommittee Hearing
HUD Secretary Ben Carson Wednesday appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies to discuss the Trump Administration’s FY 2021 HUD budget request.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) praised HUD programs the administration proposes to eliminate, highlighting Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME); the joint HUD-VA voucher program, VASH; and the Public Housing Capital Fund. Collins defended CDBG with particular vigor, citing the work it has done in Maine to help finance mixed-income housing, renovate community centers, and deliver health and wellness services to veterans. Collins predicted the subcommittee would reject elimination of these programs and other “cost-shifting approaches” in the budget request, citing as evidence a letter she received last year signed by 75 senators in support of retaining CDBG.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) echoed many of Collins’ points. Reed claimed that HUD is walking away from its commitment to create affordable housing by requesting to eliminate HOME and CDBG and proposing steep cuts to public housing initiatives. Reed thought the cuts were particularly ironic given Carson’s current bus tour, “Driving Affordable Housing Across America.”
Carson defended the administration’s budget request, saying it balances HUD’s mission with the federal government’s responsibility to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. When Collins asked him to explain the call to eliminate CDBG, Carson said that, while CDBG can be credited for many “wonderful” things, there are as many “inappropriate” problems with the way the program is designed. Carson claimed CDBG allows communities that do not need the funding to do “pretty much anything they want” without responsibility or accountability, with the implicit guarantee that funds will be available again the following year.
Much of the hearing focused on HUD’s response to COVID-19. Every senator asked Carson what HUD has done and is doing to help funding recipients contain the virus’ spread. Carson said HUD has distributed to CDBG recipients guidance on how to repurpose funding for responses to the virus, as well as provided, through the appropriate HUD communication channels, information on personal hygiene best practices.
A recording of the hearing is available here.