Federal Budget Proposal Cuts Holes In Safety Nets
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Leaders from nonprofits across the country are voicing their displeasure with President Donald J. Trump’s fiscal year 2018 federal budget proposal, dubbed “A New Foundation For American Greatness.” Criticisms have specifically centered on cuts to federal safety nets such as Medicaid and food subsidy programs.

The budget proposes $3.6 trillion in cuts over the next decade, according to a copy of the plan available on the White House website. An estimated $610 billion of those cuts are anticipated to come through Medicaid reform. The budget proposes giving states the choice between a per-capita cap and block grant – leaving it to states to prioritize how Medicaid dollars are spent.

Another $250 billion in cuts are proposed in reforms aimed at transitioning away from the Affordable Care Act. The Children’s Health Insurance Program’s (CHIP) long-term future will be tied to health reform as a whole, but funding will be extended through 2019.

Welfare reform is another element of the budget, with the Trump administration seeking to change eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The budget proposes a state-match for the cost of SNAP benefits, beginning at a national average of a 10-percent match in 2020 and moving up to a 25-percent average in 2023. In total, the budget projects $190.9 billion in SNAP cuts over the next 10 years.

The proposal would require valid Social Security Numbers to claim Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit benefits. Immigration reform is sought as a means of lowering federal expenditures, the budget citing a National Academy of Sciences report that posited that first-generation immigrants might have cost government $279 billion more than taxes paid in 2013, including $147 billion on the federal level.

Relatedly, the budget proposes $71.8 billion in increases to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice for law enforcement, public safety, and immigration enforcement activities and another $300 million to recruit, hire, and train 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel in 2018.

Additional increases include $54 billion in defense spending, including an additional $52 billion for the Department of Defense, up from $587 billion in 2017. Another $2.6 billion has been earmarked for border security, including the planning, design, and construction of a wall along America’s southern border.

The budget next goes before the U.S. Senate for review. Reviews from leaders in the nonprofit community are already in, with numerous organizations crafting statements in opposition to the proposal.

Patriotic Millionaires, a group of high-net-worth individuals, released a one-word statement describing the budget as “obscene.” Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector, stated that the budget signals unprecedented retreats from federal programming aimed at supporting the nation’s most vulnerable populations. Tax reform laid out in the budget also threatens to reduce charitable giving by $13 billion per year.

“As tax and spending debates continue, we urge policymakers to work toward fiscal policies that lift up the inherent value of all individuals, families, and communities,” Cardinali said. “We stand ready to work in partnership with both the Administration and Congress to ensure that our federal fiscal priorities reflect the values and the aspirations of the American people.”

Sameera Hafiz, advocacy director for We Belong Together, a campaign of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, accused Trump of scapegoating immigrants with the plan and using the budget to change laws with which he disagrees, such as federal court rulings against efforts to utilize local jurisdictions in immigration enforcement.

“Low-income women of color, including immigrant women, and their families will be among the most affected by this budget proposal,” Hafiz said in a statement. “Not only will they not have access to these much needed programs to stay healthy and safe, but immigration enforcement will have more resources to conduct raids on communities, detain immigrant women and separate more families.”

Leon W. Russell, chairman of the NAACP, criticized the budget for its potential slashing of federal positions aimed at promoting civil rights and assisting low-income individuals. The cuts would defund at least 10 percent of key civil rights positions across the federal government, according to Russell. Included in that percentage are 7 percent of staff at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and 249 fulltime positions at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Legal Services Corporation, which provided 2 million low-income individuals with legal representation in 2016 would also be eliminated, Russell stated.

Concerns at the American Heart Association are focused on the impact the budget will have on medical research. In addition to healthcare reform, the budget proposes $7.2 billion in cuts to the National Institutions of Health, $854 million in cuts to the Food and Drug Administration, and recommends cuts to chronic disease programs at the Centers for Disease Control according to Steven Houser, Ph.D., president.

“Congress needs to increase investment in the NIH and the CDC so their invaluable work can move full speed ahead,” Houser said via a statement. “The association implores lawmakers to reject the President’s proposed NIH budget and to instead provide an additional $2 billion to the agency again this year. This increase will provide a steady, predictable funding stream that would help the NIH prioritize heart and stroke research.”

Casey Harden, interim CEO for YWCA USA, said in a statement that the organization is alarmed by attacks made on women’s reproductive health represented in the budget. A budget expanding access to health care, as opposed to cutting Medicaid and access to reproductive health, is needed, Harden said, along with ensuring basic living standards such as housing and food assistance.

Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America, estimated that the cuts to SNAP and shifting costs toward states will equate to 45 billion fewer meals to those in need and would lead to reduced or complete cuts to benefits for millions of families. Cuts to the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) will fall below levels authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, according to Aviv. Total Farm Bill reductions are estimated at $38 billion, according to the budget proposal.

“Without any doubt, our network of 200 food banks will not be able to fill in the gap created by the cuts proposed in this budget,” Aviv said. “We are extremely distressed with this budget. We oppose cuts that undermine the successful anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. We strongly urge Congress to reject the president’s devastating proposals and develop a budget that keeps critical nutrition and support programs strong.”