The one-two punch of President Trump’s proposed budget and the House-approved American Health Care Act send a clear message that the Trump administration and members of Congress care more about moneyed interests than the health and well-being of Americans.
Although the budget is identified with the Trump administration, it should be understood as the culmination of a decades-long effort to roll back a national commitment that began with the war on poverty. This effort rests on the myth that those without means are somehow undeserving of support. It is our duty to debunk that myth.
At a time when this country should be increasing its investment in the tools that bring prosperity to all, the budget cuts funding for programs and tools that help people become self-sufficient. The philosophy enshrined in the Trump budget ignores the realities of what it takes to achieve economic security and how hard people are already working just to survive. Without a decent wage, adequate education, safe and affordable housing, access to nutritious food, medical care, child care and transportation, families can’t build a buffer against economic catastrophe. A single mother with two children working full-time earning $12 an hour would still be under 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. That person would be eligible for Medicaid today. But not under the Trump budget.
The stated goal of the Trump budget is to push everyone towards work — including those currently receiving disability benefits — but it reduces or eliminates the programs needed to support work when one is poor, including the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), literacy programs, educational opportunity grants, the Federal Work Study Program, HUD Rental Assistance and the food program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
What does this budget mean to low-income families in Colorado? Here are some facts.
Hunger: In 2015, SNAP provided about $770 million dollars in food assistance to a monthly average of 495,134 Coloradans. SNAP benefits are entirely paid by the federal government. The Trump budget proposes to shift 25 percent of the cost of SNAP to the states by 2023. This shift would cost Colorado $183 million a year or $1.3 billion over 10 years. In addition, the budget proposal would limit categorical eligibility and limit states’ use of waivers to exempt able-bodied adults without dependents from work requirements. Given Colorado’s budget constraints, it seems highly unlikely that the state would contribute $183 million to ensure SNAP-eligible individuals have access to food.
Medicaid: The Trump budget proposes a $610 billion reduction over 10 years in federal Medicaid expenditures. This is on top of the $800 billion Medicaid cut passed by the House in the AHCA. The proposal also appears to eliminate Medicaid eligibility for parents of low-income children and adults without dependent children. The proposed cuts would mean that Colorado would need to reduce Medicaid programs and services by at least 25 percent. It would be extremely difficult under such a scenario to avoid cuts to the disabled and elderly.
Education and training: The president’s budget cuts student aid by $5.2 billion. The proposal also seeks to eliminate Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which help cover college costs each year for more than 1.6 million students with the greatest need. The budget would slash $488 million from the Work-Study program, eliminating employment opportunities for more than 300,000 low-income students working their way through college, about 25 percent of whom earn less than $12,000 annually. Furthermore, the budget would end subsidized student loans, which benefit low- and moderate-income borrowers by stopping the accrual of interest while students are in school as well as debt forgiveness for students who go into public service careers. The budget also proposes cuts of almost 40 percent that would devastate workforce training for low-income youth and adults through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a program that received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress in 2014.
Support for people with disabilities: The budget would reduce funding that provides income to people with disabilities in the total amount of $72.5 billion over 10 years and assumes that some percentage of the disabled population can and will return to work. In addition, the budget proposes to reduce funding to families that have multiple disability recipients. For example, a family with two disabled children might see a reduction in total disability benefits due to so-called economies of scale. Any parent of a disabled child will corroborate the extraordinary uncovered expenses incurred in taking care of a child with special needs. It is deeply troubling that the administration would try to reduce funds for these vulnerable families.
Financial assistance to needy families: Starting in fiscal year 2018, Trump’s budget would cut the TANF block grant by 10 percent from $16.5 billion to $14.9 billion. The budget also eliminates the Contingency Fund that provides assistance to states during economic downturns. These cuts are on top of the fact that the TANF block grant has already lost more than one-third of its inflation-adjusted value since 1996. Funding for the block grant has been frozen at $16.5 billion since 1996.
Though it’s been suggested that the proposed budget and the AHCA are part a “strategy” to force a compromise of less-severe cuts in human service programs and health care, it’s unconscionable that the America’s most vulnerable people are the “bargaining chip” in pursuit of undermining the nation’s safety net.
We urge all Coloradans to contact their Congressional representatives and voice their objections to these draconian and inhumane funding cuts.