The White House budget office has previously said the administration will use the data to determine whether to bar cities from being eligible for new federal cash. A senior administration official did not rule out the possibility that cities could lose their existing funds.
“As the data comes in, OMB will collect it and make a decision,” said the official, who requested anonymity. The review is in the preliminary stages, and the official said the administration will make decisions about each grant individually.
“We need to review the information with agencies before we know,” according to the official. “Grant programs all have different authorities so it’s going to be case by case.”
According to OMB’s own guidelines, just a small fraction of the grants flagged by HHS may be protected from cuts. A Sept. 21 memo from OMB Director Russ Vought instructed agencies to assess whether grants supported law enforcement activities, indicating those would be less vulnerable to elimination. “[S]uch programs and activities, when properly designed and implemented, can help prevent the deterioration of municipalities into lawless zones,” Vought wrote.
HHS identified that just six of the 185 grant programs directly or indirectly have a connection to law enforcement, including some public health measures, hospital emergency preparedness and child support enforcement.
Programs that don’t meet the law enforcement exception include a two-year $4.6 million grant to D.C.’s Department of Health Care Finance that funds addiction treatment and recovery services through next September. Another includes $850,000 through 2025 to King County, which includes Seattle, to support the HIV initiative Trump announced at his State of the Union address last year.
A $1.8 million grant for Oregon’s Multnomah County, which includes Portland, and a $880,000 grant to King County, both to help community and migrant health centers care for Covid-19 patients, are also under review.
Public health advocates and city officials panned the administration’s review, warning that the consequences of pulling funding from these cities — especially during the pandemic — could be dire.
“The bottom line is there’s no extra money lying around, and this is not a time to be playing politics with people’s health,” said Chrissie Juliano, executive director of the Big Cities Health Coalition, a national group that represents health departments in major U.S. cities — including the four targeted by Trump.
Officials from New York City and Seattle — as well as the United States Conference of Mayors — have already threatened legal action if the administration moves to block funds.
“This is nothing more than political retribution,” said Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.