- Patricia Neuray
The End of America’s Social Safety Net
Why is it that whenever federal budgets are cut, they always seem to eliminate spending for the programs (and people) that need it the most? While the current administration is determined to build a wall to keep people out of the country, we are essentially building walls internally to keep our own citizens in perpetual poverty. Now, we know that this proposed budget for 2020 will not get enacted as is, but a portion of these cuts may get approved. So, what exactly are the social programs that are on the chopping block and how will that affect the neediest in our society? BCT Partners outlines some of the biggest proposed cuts below.
Medicaid and Medicare
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, President Trump proposes to pare as much as $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, partially by repealing the Medicaid expansion enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and partially by converting the program to a block grant to states — a system that destroys the program’s ability to match funding with costs and results in a massive shortfall over time.
AARP while also acknowledging that the 2020 budget probably won’t get passed, reported that it allows for $845 billion to be cut from Medicare over the next 10 years. The government proposes to cut spending mainly by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse (although the language is extremely vague as to what type of waste and fraud they are talking about). In addition, payments would be cut to certain hospitals and other providers such as outpatient departments and teaching hospitals and provide less money to compensate hospitals for treating patients who can’t afford care.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP)
The budget plan proposes eliminating $220 billion for the SNAP program which would greatly affect lower income families and seniors. This program, formerly known as food stamps, would now expand work requirements to those able to work up to age 65. Now in theory, this doesn’t sound like a lot to ask, but many people that take advantage of social service programs have extenuating circumstances that prevent them from working. For example, they may lack transportation, have an unstable living situation, not have access to childcare options or suffer from mental illness or other disabilities.
With the homelessness crisis getting worse due to unaffordable housing options, cuts to housing aid would make the problem exponentially worse. The administration wants to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant which is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique development needs. For example, it grants funding to cities and counties so they can develop affordable housing and expand economic opportunities, primarily for for low- and moderate-income people.
Many cities also rely on the Home Investment Partnership Program to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. HOME is the largest Federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households. The proposed 2020 budget does not allow any funds for this program which received $1.25 billion in fiscal 2019. Basically, the program will cease to exist.
So, essentially the budget cuts would deprive many people of the most basic human rights such as food, housing and healthcare. And while many of these spending cuts will not get approved as proposed, there is no doubt that the current administration is determined to reduce the effectiveness of our social safety net. It is our moral obligation to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves. We not only need to be aware of how these cuts would affect the most vulnerable in our society but we must ensure that they don’t get approved.
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