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Program Helping Brenham Recover from Blue Bell Crises Melts Away Under Trump Budget
The listeria outbreak at the Blue Bell factory in Brenham, Texas was devastating. It didn’t just take Blue Bell ice cream off Texas store shelves, it hit the community in Brenham right in the teeth. According to an August 2015 report from the Houston Chronicle, between the listeria outbreak that occurred in May 2015 and August of 2015, the unemployment rate in Washington County went up by 2 percent. Some estimates showed unemployment going up even more – up to 3.5 percent – as a result of the crisis.
Blue Bell fans may not have been able to get their ice cream fix, but the factory workers in Brenham who needed their jobs to take care of their families were in a real crisis. Thanks to an innovative grant program from the U.S. Department of Commerce, however, some hope has returned and help is finally available in Brenham.
But the hope and help may be short lived. The Trump Budget announced earlier this week would zero out the funding for the program that helped Brenham and places like it across the country.
Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant awarded in Brenham
Reacting to months of rising unemployment in Washington County, in August 2015 the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which is a program within the U.S. Department of Commerce, announced a $1.4 million dollar grant to the Economic Development Foundation of Brenham to expand workforce training and “attract new business to the area.”
Early this year, ground was broken on the modernization and expansion of the A.W. Hodde Jr. Technical Education Center at Blinn College. The facility is designed to “empower local job seekers and provide businesses with the highly skilled, goal-oriented employees” according to a local official. Nearly 70% of the facility expansion was funded by the EDA grant provided to the local economic development organization.
Trump’s budget eliminates EDA program that helped Brenham and saves jobs across Texas
The Trump budget released yesterday zeroes out all funding for the Economic Development Administration. If approved by the Republican-controlled Congress, grants like the one used to help in Brenham would be eliminated.
What does that mean for Texas? According to data from the Economic Development Administration, last year alone, nearly $14 million in grants and other funding was provided to organizations, colleges and municipalities in Texas. In fact, Texas received the second highest funding-- behind only California-- of any state. The data projects that the grants made to Texas organizations in 2016 will help create nearly 1,100 new jobs and help save nearly 4,000 existing jobs. Already this year, over $2 million has been awarded to Texas, with an expected 453 jobs saved in the process.
So, what has been the reaction from Senators Ted Cruz or John Cornyn or U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul who represents Brenham?
Crickets. None of them have uttered a word about EDA grants or other activities since Trump’s budget was made public.