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The President's Proposed Budget Would Hurt Working Families, Seniors, Children, and People with Disabilities

The President's Proposed Budget Would Hurt Working Families, Seniors, Children, and People with Disabilities

Date Posted: 
05/23/2017

CLS has reviewed materials currently available concerning the President’s budget proposal and is deeply concerned about the negative impact the President’s budget proposal will have on people with disabilities, older adults, children, and families who are struggling to make ends meet.

The budget eliminates the Social Services Block Grant (SSGB), which funds a wide range of human services including domestic violence services and legal aid. SSGB funds a significant percentage of CLS’s budget, and the loss of that funding means many more low-income people will have to go without the legal help they desperately need. The President’s proposed budget would also eliminate the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), dismantling civil legal aid programs nationwide, including Philadelphia Legal Assistance, and making it impossible for many Americans to get justice. Without LSC funding, PLA and other legal aid programs will not survive.

President Trump’s budget also cuts benefits for disabled workers who rely on Social Security when they are injured or ill and unable to work.  And it includes drastic cuts to Medicaid, SNAP/Food Stamps, TANF, and LIHEAP. It also penalizes families caring for multiple children with disabilities or multiple people family members with disabilities for staying together.

The proposed budget slashes funding for a wide range of programs that make it possible for low-income families to work, to get nutritious meals, to recover from domestic violence, and care for their children. In a myriad of ways, this budget will hurt working families, seniors, and children.

The TANF block grant, which has not increased since 1996, is worth 35% less than it was 20 years ago because of inflation. The proposed budget would cut approximately 10% from Pennsylvania's block grant amount, or $70 million per year. TANF is already significantly underfunded, causing pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, and children to go without the help they desperately need. President Trump’s budget proposal takes a dire situation and makes it even worse.

The President’s proposed budget would increase hunger, poverty, and ill health by cutting the SNAP program by an unprecedented 25%. Currently SNAP benefits are 100% federally-funded, but this budget would shift up to 25% of the cost of benefits to states. According to the CBPP, the cost shift to Pennsylvania would be $4.75 billion over 10 years  Because states could not absorb these costs, they would be forced to cut eligibility or benefits.  SNAP’s structure should be maintained as an entitlement, with no cost-shifting to states or cuts to benefits for needy families, seniors, and people with disabilities.  SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, and food simply should not be taken away from hungry people.

The President’s proposed budget would eliminate The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), cutting a lifeline to warm, safe homes for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania families. LIHEAP is the only federal program that helps seniors and families who are struggling to pay their energy bills.  LIHEAP also keeps homes safer:  utility shut-offs or empty fuel tanks in the winter create dangerous and potentially life-threatening living conditions.  Utility assistance programs help some, but leave many people out in the cold.  Close to 38,000 Pennsylvania families had no utility service or were displaced following utility shut-off last winter. LIHEAP should be expanded, not eliminated, so that all struggling families can make it through the winter safely.

In contrast to the President's commitment not to cut core Social Security Programs, the budget proposes to do just that.  Among problematic suggestions is a proposal to drastically reduce benefits by creating a sliding scale for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries who reside together.

The SSI program provides necessary life-sustaining benefits to 8.2 low-income million Americans, including 1.2 million severely disabled children and 4.8 million severely disabled adults.  By reducing benefits for multi-recipient homes, this proposal would greatly disadvantage families raising multiple children with disabilities or where a parent and child both have a disability.  Children with disabilities cannot share a diaper, a nutritional supplement, or an orthotic shoe -- giving that family proportionally less benefits will just make it harder for the family to continue to care for that child in the community.  This proposal will also discourage a family with a disabled adult (perhaps a grandparent) from staying  in the same home with the child with a disability, and prevent multiple SSI recipients from  residing in shared community housing. This program seems counter to traditional family values by creating a disincentive for families to stay together.

The Trump Administration’s budget would cut more than $1.4 trillion from federal Medicaid spending by capping payments to states.  The budget includes the $839 billion in Medicaid cuts proposed in the American Health Care Act, currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate, plus an additional $627 billion in cuts.  States would face immediate losses in funding from the capped payments, and in future years, the payments would not keep pace with inflation, creating enormous holes in state budgets.  Pennsylvania would be forced to limit eligibility or cut services for the children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities who rely on Medicaid to get and stay healthy

Pennsylvania has 2.9 million Medicaid recipients, and 1.2 million of those recipients are children.  Cuts to Medicaid of this magnitude would mean that fewer children would have access to vaccinations and preventive care.  The cuts would keep children from managing their asthma, or from getting early intervention services like speech or physical therapy after a diagnosis of autism or serious disability.

Pennsylvania spends 72% of its Medicaid funding on older adults and individuals with disabilities, many of whom need long term care.  The Medicaid cuts proposed by the Trump Administration would threaten programs that allow people to live independently in their own homes, as well as nursing home quality of care.

The proposal to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) would have a huge and immediate impact on Philadelphians.  Among other things, CDBG funds Philadelphia’s nationally renowned Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program that brings distressed homeowners together with the mortgage lenders under the supervision of our courts.  It alone has resulted in saving over 11,000 homes from foreclosure.

Taken together, the proposed federal budget would impact all of us.  Whether you or someone you love is sick or elderly or unemployed or at risk of losing your home or paying back student loans, your life will be made more difficult by this proposal almost immediately.

CLS will continue to monitor budget proposals, including the one that will soon be released by the U.S. House of Representatives, in order to keep you informed so you can speak out against cuts that harm people in poverty.