HELENA – The executive director of Helena Area Habitat for Humanity is in Washington, D.C. this week, raising concerns about proposed federal budget cuts that he says would make it harder to provide affordable housing.

Jacob Kuntz said he is among more than 340 representatives from Habitat groups around the country who are visiting the capital to advocate for housing programs.

“There is a continued deterioration of programs that serve families with low incomes, so we’re here to speak out on their behalf,” he said.

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The Trump administration released its official budget proposal for 2019 this week. It includes significant cuts to some federal agencies.

Kuntz said one program that will be affected is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Section 502 direct loan program, which helps low-income families obtain housing. He said Helena Habitat is using that program to expand its services. Previously, the organization built one new home per year. In 2018, they’re planning to build six.

Kuntz is also concerned about the proposal to cut funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the AmeriCorps program. He said that program helps connect Habitat with new graduates and others to take part in their construction projects, and that it helps cover some of those workers’ salaries.

Kuntz said access to affordable housing is key for communities around Montana.

”Across the state, more and more families are finding that they’re spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing,” he said. “This means that they are forced to make a decision between providing housing for their family and putting food on the table. We believe that families shouldn’t have to choose between those two necessities.”

Any of the administration’s budget proposals would have to be approved by Congress in order to take effect, and Kuntz said he’s optimistic lawmakers will support continued funding for affordable housing programs. He said he is scheduled to meet with several members of Montana’s congressional delegation during his time in Washington.

“I believe that our representatives are committed to families in Montana, and they see housing as a core need and a measure of the success of families and the economies of our communities,” said Kuntz.

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