EICAP concerned about proposed federal cuts

The President's FY19 Budget is on display after arriving on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, released Monday, eliminates funding for two low-income federal assistance and grant programs, which has drawn the ire of a regional service organization.

Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership officials spoke out against the elimination of federal funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant on Tuesday.

The annual Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program assists income-qualified families in paying their electrical, gas, and heating bills during the winter months. The Community Services Block Grant delegates funds to help eliminate the cause and conditions of poverty in communities.

Trump’s proposed 2019 federal budget cuts all funding for the two programs.

Evelyn Kinikin, family service director for EICAP, said the elimination of these programs would be devastating to thousands who receive assistance in eastern Idaho.

“I’m afraid if they take these programs away, there are going to be a lot of families without these services,” Kinikin said.

In 2017, EICAP estimates it distributed Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds to 3,677 homes in eastern Idaho, and assisted 4,477 households and 12,033 individuals with Community Services Block Grant funds.

Kinikin estimates that EICAP would only be able to assist 20 homes in eastern Idaho through other funding should the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program be eliminated.

Idaho received $11 million in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds in 2017, which were distributed among six regions in the state.

Total aid through Community Services Block Grant funds was not available, but the program has made its impact in the region through The Haven, a temporary shelter for women and children in Idaho Falls.

“A majority of our funding goes through The Haven to help families through their GED program and help sustain the shelter,” Kinikin said.

Kinikin said The Haven is currently operating at maximum capacity with an individual or family occupying all 50 rooms. There is a one-year waitlist for new occupants.

Last year, Community Services Block Grant programs helped EICAP assist 4,477 households and 12,033 individuals.

And if this program was eliminated, Kinikin is unsure if assistance programs such as The Haven would be sustainable.

“If we don’t have these funds, our agency would pretty much have to shut down,” she said. “We just won’t be able to have the resources to help our community.”

Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.