Trump Budget Harms Struggling Families by Cutting Funding for Assistance Programs and Pushing for Strict Work Requirements
The President’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal is yet another attack on poor families. The Administration has proposed to slash funding for critical programs that help low- and moderate-income individuals access healthy and nutritious food, receive critical health care services, and live in safe and affordable homes. Specifically, the President proposed to cut $230 billion from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or Food Stamps), $250 billion from Medicaid, and $6.8 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget.
Although Congress is unlikely to approve the proposal, the budget draws a troubling picture of the Administration’s policy priorities and their effect on families struggling to make ends meet. SNAP is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program and helps over 40 million people combat food insecurity. Medicaid is the single largest source of health coverage in the country and provides 72 million individuals—most of whom are children, seniors and persons with disabilities—access to the health services they need. HUD implements programs that fund public housing repairs, federal housing subsidies and Section 8 vouchers that help families pay rent, and community development block grants that are key to disaster recovery and neighborhood redevelopment. HUD’s Section 8 and Public Housing programs alone provide 2 million families access to safe and affordable apartments.
In addition, the President’s budget proposal pushed for legislation to add or strengthen work requirements for the recipients of these means-tested assistance programs, signaling a policy priority to “make welfare work” and perpetuating the myth that public benefits recipients choose not to work and live comfortably on government assistance.
However, the majority of public benefits recipients do work. And those who do not cannot work because of federally recognized exemptions such as caretaking responsibilities, attending school, and having a disability. Furthermore, work requirement rules in assistance programs actually hurt rather than help struggling families. Research shows that the work rules currently in effect in SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) do not lift people out of poverty. Instead, these rules have inflicted serious hardship by causing many families to lose assistance in times of need and throwing them into deeper poverty. Strengthening work requirements in SNAP would hurt beneficiaries who already work. Strict work requirements in Medicaid would take away coverage that enables individuals to manage their health so that they are well enough to work. And implementing work requirements in federal housing assistance programs would inevitably force individuals in crisis into unstable housing situations, crowded shelters, or homelessness—all of which make it more difficult to find and keep a job.
Many low-income people work low-wage jobs in industries where sudden job loss and fluctuating hours are common. Many work multiple jobs on a part-time basis and are therefore not eligible for employer-provided benefits. SNAP, Medicaid, and federal housing programs enable these individuals to meet their basic needs like food, medicine, and shelter. Work requirements will take away benefits that can help families improve their economic prospects for not meeting draconian work rules.
Rather than addressing the needs of low-income families, Trump’s proposed budget exacerbates the challenges they face. NCLEJ will continue to fight for fairness and justice for low-income individuals and their families by ensuring that public programs assist those who are eligible and in need.
Dennis D. Parker