May 24, 2017

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Trump’s budget makes ‘the unkindest cuts’

by | May 24, 2017

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.

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.